Drama

My Salinger Year

The two fine leads are upstaged by these typos in the script.

Margaret Qualley is Andie MacDowell’s daughter, who has earned more attention with her role in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Now, she has a new movie called “My Salinger Year,” which, this time, co-stars Sigourney Weaver. It’s based on the memoir of journalist Joanna Rakoff, who was an inspiring writer and poet, and worked at a New York industry associated with J.D. Salinger, despite not reading any of his books. She was assigned to respond to fan mail that Mr. Salinger will not be accepting any fan mail, and their requests will be denied.

The movie, itself, has fine performances from the two leads, but for a movie about how reclusive the author is, it never creates much vivid characters or strong notions. It mostly provides negativity and cynicism. Some of the characters include two boyfriends, one of whom she kind of ghosted after dropping out of Berkeley College to stay in New York. I know the story takes place in the 90s, but still, her boyfriend Karl (Hamza Haq) isn’t given much info about whether or not their relationship is through. Although, she knows it is. And then, there’s her new roommate Don (Douglas Booth), who isn’t much help with finding them a good place to rent (in fact, their place has no kitchen sink or good heaters) and doesn’t even invite her to a wedding.

There are also segments when Joanna reads the letters from people. The most effective come from those who can relate to Salinger’s characters or struggle to fight their Vietnam War demons, while the least effective comes from a stupid teenager, who is on the brink of repeating a grade if she doesn’t get a letter back from Salinger defending her. And when Joanna writes to that girl telling her to do her school work and get a life, that same brat comes snapping to her with the same old “you’re not my mom” routine.

The movie was written and directed by Philippe Falardeau, who has made some entertaining entries in the past like “Monsieur Lazhar,” “The Good Lie,” and “Chuck.” Here, in “My Salinger Year,” he does an effective job with the guiding the two leads with respective ambitions in the world of literature. Qualley is full of poetry and youth, as her character is, while Weaver does a good job at playing a somewhat strict boss telling her they have to use old school equipment and how the letters must be responded.

But the director doesn’t provide the supporting characters with much analysis, and leaves them wandering around from place to place and making whimsical small talk. Not even Salinger’s fans are closely examined, and appear just like Wes Anderson characters in single shots. Most of them have so many interesting things to talk about, but they don’t receive any payoffs.

I was expecting more out of the movie. I was expecting it to expand its horizons and really delve into the material, instead of just having these characters appear in just random situations. Again, Qualley and Weaver both hold your attention span, but the overall movie itself is underdeveloped.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4.

In Select Theaters and On Demand This Friday

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