My Salinger Year

Drama | 101 Minutes

Canada: Friday, March 05, 2021

IFC Films

No Rating

New York, 1990's: a wide-eyed aspiring writer (Margaret Qualley) lands a dream job as assistant to the iconic old-world literary agent (Sigourney Weaver) representing J.D. Salinger.

Cast & Crew

Movie Cast
  • Margaret Qualley
  • Sigourney Weaver
  • Douglas Booth
  • Seána Kerslake
  • Jonathan Dubsky
  • Tim Post
Movie Crew
  • Philippe Falardeau
  • Philippe Falardeau

User Reviews

Public Reviews - 1 Reviews
  • Gregory M. - Rated it 3 out of 5

    "My Salinger Year" New York in 'the 90s': After leaving graduate school to pursue her dream of becoming a writer, Joanna (Margaret Qualley) gets hired as an assistant to Margaret (Sigourney Weaver), the stoic and old-fashioned literary agent of J. D. Salinger (Tim Post). Fluctuating between poverty and glamour, she spends her days in a plush, wood-panelled office, where dictaphones and typewriters still reign and agents doze off after three-martini lunches, and her nights in a sink-less Brooklyn apartment with her socialist boyfriend Don (Douglas Booth). Joanna’s main task is processing Salinger’s voluminous fan mail, but as she reads the heart-wrenching letters from around the world, she becomes reluctant to send the agency’s impersonal standard letter and impulsively begins personalizing the responses. The results are both humorous and moving, as Joanna, while using the great writer’s voice, begins to discover her own. Throughout the film.we follow characters that are often foreign to the environment they now find themselves in. In "My Salinger Year", Joanna is thrown into the literary world and has to learn how to navigate it. Much like the character who has to navigate new grounds professionally. The film paraphrases Joanna and describe it as a visitation with a character. At the center of her journey are all those fans who write to Salinger, desperately wanting to connect with him. Her job is to shield Salinger from them, but she finds a very personal way to do her job, and this will help her find who she really is. The storyline explores several contrasting ideas. The book explores multilayered ideas, 'literature vs. business', 'success vs. privacy', the old and the new, 'boyfriend vs. ambition'. It's challenging to get all these ideas in without overcrowding the storyline. The way to do that's to focus on Joanna, stick to her character, and let the themes arise in the background. One of the themes that's very close is the perennial debate about 'art vs. business'. The business side is very important which comes as a bit of a shock for Joanna, especially in that sequence when her boss asks her to read Judy Blume's (Gillian Doria) new manuscript. She's a big fan of Judy Blume so she's thrilled to be on the inside. She loves the new book, but her boss wants marketing advice, not a critical appreciation. She realizes that her personal taste and sensibility can be irrelevant in this sort of discussion. At the other end of the spectrum, Joanna's socialist boyfriend Don is not joking when he says; 'writing makes you a writer'. Publishing is commerce. Salinger is a hovering presence in the book. The film comes up with a playful way to portray Salinger through Joanna's point of view. That being said, there's never a scenario where Salinger is a full fledged character; it's not his story, but Joanna's. His world materializes through the numerous fan letters Joanna reads. This is one example of where the film transforms literature into cinema and invent a parallel world for the fans. The set and costume design balance the vibrant time in which the story is taking place, as well as incorporate the mid-century modern aesthetic of 'The Salinger Ära'. It's a tricky time, almost a no man's land not quite far enough in time to give it an aura of nostalgia or a feeling of grooviness in terms of colors and texture. But there are fun details about that time that the film exploits narratively; it's a time of changes in the world of communication, press and publishing. In 1996, people were only beginning to get familiar with 'Emails' and 'The Internet'. This film is based on Joanna Rakoff’s book 'My Salinger Year'. Joanna’s writing is both moving and funny in the smallest of details. We can relate to that uncertain time when we've to decide what we want to do with our life, not completely aware of the range of possibilities. A time when anything is possible, but everything seems out of reach. Novels are one thing to adapt, but memoirs are on another level. The book is not story driven. The screenplay invents moments and events as mutation tools between literature and film. Part of the challenge when you adapt a book is to understand what's organic to each form. The literary world can hold much more content and can sustain multilayered themes without feeling scattered. It also allows direct access to the protagonist’s mind. Turning a book into a film usually means making choices, creating composite characters and transforming the inner voice into concrete actions. Fiction has to be used to convey ideas or feelings, we find in the book. The film indeed portrays the literary world as multifaceted and depicts the creative and the business process of the arts as both necessary and complimentary. We want to believe literature is at an arms length of commerce at least compared to music, visual art of films, but it isn't. written by Gregory Mann

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