My Salinger Year   UK title: My New York Year

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

My Salinger Year
dir-scr Philippe Falardeau
prd Luc Dery, Kim McCraw
with Margaret Qualley, Sigourney Weaver, Douglas Booth, Brian F O'Byrne, Colm Feore, Seana Kerslake, Theodore Pellerin, Yanic Truesdale, Hamza Haq, Leni Parker, Romane Denis, Tim Post
release US 5.Mar.21,
UK 21.May.21
20/Canada 1h41

weaver obyrne feore

Is it streaming?

qualley and booth
A witty script keeps this true story entertaining, as it mixes warm affection for the work of JD Salinger with wryly comical observations about the publishing world. Although it doesn't help that it plays out like a low-key, literary The Devil Wears Prada. Writer-director Philippe Falardeau skilfully draws the audience in with a smart story, engaging characters and a gently amusing tone, while also touching on some punchy themes.
In 1995, aspiring writer Joanna (Qualley) is visiting a friend (Kerslake) in New York when she decides to stay, getting a job at one of the city's oldest literary agencies. For bosses Margaret and Daniel (Weaver and Feore), their main job is to shield star client Salinger from anyone trying to contact him. While Joanna struggles to follow the agency's strict rules, she meets fellow hopeful Don (Booth) and starts a relationship. And he's more than a little shocked that she's never read Catcher in the Rye. Meanwhile, each experience offers Joanna a life lesson.
The agency is hilariously old world, eschewing computers and following quaint procedures that haven't changed for decades. Salinger doesn't want to read any of his fan mail, and Joanna gets over-involved as she veers from the approved replies. Letters are performed to-camera in striking tableaux, representing a range of fans from around the world who see themselves in Salinger's iconic work. At the same time, Joanna is grappling with her own future as an author, envisioning her interaction with these fans.

Performances are relaxed, leading to fizzy interaction that's pointed and funny. Thankfully, it remains grounded, never spiralling into pastiche. Qualley is a likeable protagonist whose journey catches the imagination, nicely depicting her her quietly strong-willed tenacity and creativity. Side roles are also earthy and sympathetic, even if simplified, including Booth's hapless Don and O'Byrne as a helpful agency colleague. Meanwhile, Weaver finds terrific textures as the larger-than-life Margaret, who has her own story here and isn't as imperious as she seems.

Despite the film's light touch and rather slight sensibility, this is a surprisingly involving story about a young artist who is only beginning to develop some confidence, realising that her busy daily life is keeping her from finding her voice. Some of Falardeau's cinematic flights of fancy feel a little forced, but they play out with a lyrical elegance that draws the audience into Joanna's observant perspective. So we're able to see ourselves and root for her as she begins to make tough decisions.

cert 15 themes, language 4.May.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall