MY SALINGER YEAR – It is the 90s, and Joanna (Margaret Qualley) has moved from California to New York with the hope of getting her writing career going. She has been writing poetry for some time, but she now needs to make it big, and New York is the right place for that. Unless things don’t go her way, and as her roommate, Jenny (Seána Kerslake) tells her, “In three months they are usually back to where they have come from.” It wouldn’t be the case for Joanna, who finds a job as assistant to powerful and apparently impervious Margaret (Sigourney Weaver). The lady commands a literary agency in an old-fashioned style (typewriters and Dictaphones are still in place), but effective in handling the big literary names of the time—chief among them, the reclusive author J.D. Salinger.
Joanna is put in charge of handling all letters that Salinger’s fans send him. The answers are already standardized, so her only job consists of typing the most adequate to each piece of correspondence the famous author receives. On one occasion, however, she deviated from the norm and wrote a letter in a more personal tone. Her well-meaning idea, however, ended badly. “For far less, a person would have been fired,” Margaret tells her. Despite that mistake, the young assistant is confirmed in her position.
In the meantime, in her personal life, Joanna has met Don (Douglas Booth) and decide to live together in a not-too-comfortable apartment. The kitchen has no sink, but to her militant boyfriend, that would not be a problem: they can wash the dishes in the bathtub.
In the meantime, after years of not writing anything, the reclusive J.D. Salinger has suddenly announced he has written a new book, which will be published by a small and little known publishing firm. For Joanna, who by now has had a few occasions to exchange a few words on the phone with the famous author, this may be the occasion to finally meet him. After all, he has been telling her all the time that she should keep writing.
Based on the memoirs of the same title written by Joanna Rakoff—and based on her real story as an assistant at Harold Ober Associates literary agency—this is a delightful film told with some ironic touch and dosage of social commentary as well. Great acting by Margaret Qualley in the leading role, conveying at the same time the sweetness and the firm determination of the young woman. Qualley’s charming performance reminded me of the young Leslie Caron in that delightful film “Lili” (1953, Charles Walter).
Directed by Quebec’s Philippe Falardeau, this movie has been released in theatres on March 5. I strongly recommend it as a good piece of entertainment, a story with some inscrutabilities and eccentricities. Still, mostly an engaging portrayal of a young woman determined to be a writer.
Running Time: 101 min.
Feature image: The talented young actress Margaret Qualley, as Joanna, transmits the sweetness and firm determination of an aspiring writer