My Salinger Year Parent Guide
This film isn't great; it isn't terrible; it's just another in the long line of mediocre coming-of-age stories.
Parent Movie Review
It’s the fall of 1995 and Joanna Rakoff (a real person played here by Margaret Qualley) is visiting a friend in New York City. Having completed a Master’s degree in English, Joanna yearns to write poetry and live the stereotypical Bohemian existence in the Big Apple, complete with dingy apartment and writing sessions in cafés. Impulsively, she decides not to return to her life (and boyfriend) in California but to start fresh and follow her literary dreams.
Even writers need to pay rent, so Joanna goes job-hunting, quickly landing a position as an assistant at Harold Ober Associates. This literary agency represents numerous famous writers, and one of Joanna’s responsibilities is to manage the correspondence sent to J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger refuses to communicate with his fans, so Joanna is instructed to send form letters to his readers and shred their letters. But Joanna is soft-hearted and when she is touched by some of the correspondence, she starts sending her own personal replies.
This correspondence is easily the best part of the film, providing a window into the lives of people who have been touched by a powerful novel. The rest of the film is much less interesting since it feels like it’s ticking a check list for coming-of-age stories. Self-absorbed, literary boyfriend? Check. Dragon lady boss? Check. Grungy apartment? Check. Protagonist loses direction before having an epiphany and refocusing her life? Check. Check.
This is not to say the movie is a dead loss. Watching Sigourney Weaver play Joanna’s fearsome boss, Margaret, is a blast – she’s easily the best part of the film. And those of us who lived through the 90s will recognize the wardrobes. (I even owned a blouse similar to one worn in the movie, but I’m not saying which one.) Memories of pre-computer office spaces will also come to the fore for older viewers. Margaret is tech-phobic and refuses to have computers in the office. “We choose not to have computers,” she explains. “They just make more work for everyone.” This will elicit either a gasp of disbelief or wry laughter from 21st century viewers. Considering I once had a boss who refused to learn how to use a fax machine, I find this scene both believable and very funny.
Unfortunately, the film’s (few) laughs come at the price of some negative content, most obviously the ubiquitous smoking and drinking, which is indulged in by all main characters. There is also mention of suicide, and the off-screen suicide of a character. Add in a brief moment of nudity (a seated naked man is seen from the side) and implied sexual content and this isn’t exactly a film for teens, unless they are passionately interested in anything remotely connected with J.D. Salinger.
I’m not sure who else is going to be interested in My Salinger Year. It’s neither brilliant nor terrible; it’s just another in the long line of mediocre movies about ambitious young writers or artists who head to New York City to achieve their dreams. (Although, ironically, this was filmed in the Canadian city of Montreal.) At the beginning of the film, Joanna reminisces about her younger self and says, “I didn’t want to be ordinary. I wanted to be extraordinary.” Whether Ms. Rakoff met her own life goals, I can’t say. But, sadly, this movie is nothing special; it’s just ordinary.Directed by Philippe Falardeau. Starring Margaret Qualley, Sigourney Weaver, Douglas Booth. Running time: 101 minutes. Theatrical release March 5, 2021. Updated March 3, 2021
Watch the trailer for My Salinger Year
My Salinger Year
Rating & Content Info
Why is My Salinger Year rated R? My Salinger Year is rated R by the MPAA for language and some sexual references.
Violence: A character talks about suicide and mentions shooting himself. There is mention of a man shooting himself.
Sexual Content: A man and woman make out on the couch. A man and woman kiss on her bed. There is a side view of a naked man sitting in a chair and typing. There is mention of a man having an extramarital affair.
Profanity: There is some profanity, including seven sexual expletives, eight scatological curses, and a smattering of terms of deity and minor swear words.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption are ubiquitous throughout the film.
Page last updated March 3, 2021
My Salinger Year Parents' Guide
Is there an author who has profoundly influenced your life? What is it about their book (or books) that affected you? If you could meet them, what would you say to them?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
This film is based on My Salinger Year, the memoir written by the real life Joanna Rakoff.
J.D. Salinger is best known for his classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Other books written by him include Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories, Three Early Stories, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.
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