“My Salinger Year” (M) *** and a half
DIRECTED by Canadian Philippe Falardeau, who also co-wrote the screenplay in conjunction with Joanna Smith Rakoff, who wrote a novel about the New York book-publication community in the late 1990s.
Central character Joanna Rakoff. Executive producer’s credit to – you guessed it – Joanna Rakoff.
This is a pleasant enough coming-of-age film telling how Joanna, fresh out of university, took a job at New York literary agency Harold Ober Associates, one of whose clients was novelist JD Salinger. No prizes for guessing her name. Most of her job involved answering fan letters with a generic explanation that Salinger did not read fan mail.
For conflict, without which no film, novel or play can justify its existence, the film chooses a field that we too easily take for granted.
“My Salinger Year” offers a view of a craft that seldom exposes what goes on between writing a book and its appearance on a retailer’s shelves. Much of that is a closed book. We must assume that the film’s autobiographical flavour comes from the writer’s personal experience and her scarcely-concealed reasons for telling.
Playing Joanna, Margaret Qualley is credible enough. But the character best symbolising the film’s conflict elements is Margaret who takes the newbie on and turns her loose to navigate company politics and acquire industry know-how with the option of sinking or swimming. Just like life, really. Playing that Margaret, Sigourney Weaver, now in her 70s, in her 88th acting role, delivers a subtle portrayal of a woman skilled in all the tricks of the publishing trade.
At Palace Electric