My New York Year: a Devil Wears Prada for the literary world

Lacklustre adaptation remains watchable despite shortcomings

This lacklustre adaptation drafts in both the up-and-coming Margaret Qualley and the formidable presence of Sigourney Weaver.

Film Title: My New York Year

Director: Philippe Falardeau

Starring: Margaret Qualley, Sigourney Weaver, Douglas Booth, Seána Kerslake , Brían F. O'Byrne, Colm Feore, Théodore Pellerin

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 101 min

Fri, May 21, 2021, 05:00

   

Joanna Rakoff’s 2014 memoir of working for a New York literary agency has been characterised as The Devil Wears Prada of publishing, and as if to prove the point, this lacklustre adaptation drafts in both the up-and-coming Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Leftovers) and the formidable Sigourney Weaver to play half-written bookworm versions of Hathaway and Streep.

As a postgrad twentysomething, Rakoff found a position with JD Salinger’s agent, a job that allowed her to occasionally converse with “Jerry” as he’s known to her frosty boss Margaret (Weaver), and to answer and carefully monitor his fan mail. After all, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was believed to have inspired John Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman and would-be Reagan assassin John Hinckley. Intrigued by various Holden Caulfield obsessives, including a Vietnam veteran and a boy from Winston-Salem, Joanna bends the rules and begins to correspond with them. Consequences ensue.

Set in 1995, My Salinger Year – which has been inexplicably and blandly retitled My New York Year – could take place at any moment in the 20th century thanks to Margaret’s aversion to computers and a universal chatter of supporting characters, including the college boyfriend Joanna leaves behind, the best pal who puts her up in the big city (Seána Kerslake), and the dashing bookstore communist (Douglas Booth) who Joanna moves in with.

The heroine is so limply drawn that one keeps forgetting that she’s in every scene.
The heroine is so limply drawn that one keeps forgetting that she’s in every scene.

Philippe Falardeau, who directed the wonderful Monsieur Lazhar, draws considerable pathos from Margaret and her complicated domestic arrangements, but the heroine is so limply drawn that one keeps forgetting that she’s in every scene. A winning supporting cast – including Théodore Pellerin from Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always and reliable Irish players Kerslake and O’Byrne – offset the budgetary constraints that come when an Irish-Canadian co-production apes New York. 

Watchable, if a bit lopsided, it’s far from the catastrophe that some of the more unkind reviews have suggested.