My Salinger Year

Jacob Richardson | 1/01/2021

Technically serviceable, but undeniably detestable. 

An aspiring writer, Joanna (Margaret Qualley) takes a clerical job at a renowned literary agent in New York City. However, her boss Margaret (Sigourney Weaver) discourages her assistants from writing, preferring they spend their time focussed on the firm’s clients - clients like the famous and reclusive author J.D. Salinger, who Joanna forms a bond with over the phone. As Joanna spends less time writing, more time working and surviving with her boyfriend Don (Douglas Booth), she has to eventually decide what she wants to do; is it enough to work in the book world? Or does her heart long for her to write her own? 


Directed by Phillipe Falardau, My Salinger Year is the sort of pretentious, preening rubbish that makes you detest every frame of the film. Right from the off, the piece is unbelievable and hateable, with dialogue flowing that reads like a poorly written stage play. People don’t talk like this, don’t act like this and don’t feel like this, and the fact that the film tries to pass it off like they do feels like a winking nod towards the pseudo-intellectuals in the crowd. It’s a high fence around the crux of the story, meant to keep at bay the peasantry - but it’s flimsy, a facade that never really touches on true intellectualism. 


The script is so unworkable it becomes difficult for any actor in the piece to grab a hold of it and make it their own, and perhaps that is why we hate absolutely everyone in the film. The movie holds a lot of star power, yet even the likes of Weaver can’t make this tripe watchable. The only redeeming feature for the assembled acting talent on display is Douglas Booth. Without Douglas Booth, one might think the passionate distaste you have for literally each and every character comes from a combination of actor, character and dialogue. But Booth delivers his wretched misogynistic characters lines with such an absence of acting prowess that it makes the rest of the cast look Oscar-worthy by comparison. 


The saving grace of the movie is the visual element. The distinctly mid-century aesthetic of the piece is quite enjoyable, and it certainly looks like a movie. It’s definitely not an unwatchable disaster - just a movie you’ll come out of passionately hating. 


My Salinger Year makes you hate movies. Just remember - they’re not all like this.