Sigourney Weaver praised the team behind Philippe Falardeau’s “My Salinger Year,” which opens the 70th Berlin Film Festival Thursday night, calling the film “a big step forward” for women in an entertainment industry still reckoning with the impact of the #MeToo movement.
“Our producers Kim (McCraw) and Luc (Déry) went out of their way to hire women who might not have been heads of department, who carried the load for a long time, made them heads of department, and gave them that chance,” Weaver said at a press conference on Thursday. “Boy, did they do a hell of a job.”
Based on Joanna Rakoff’s international bestseller set in the literary world of 1990s New York, “My Salinger Year” is a coming-of-age story about a young woman, Joanna (Margaret Qualley), who leaves graduate school to pursue her dream of becoming a writer and gets hired as an assistant to the stoic and old-fashioned literary agent (Weaver) of the reclusive writer J. D. Salinger.
The movie shifts between Joanna’s down-at-the-heels existence in a sinkless Brooklyn apartment and a glamorous world of plush offices and fancy book parties, in what Weaver described as a “love letter” to the vanishing literary world of a bygone New York.
After focusing on male protagonists in previous films, Falardeau said he “changed the paradigm” for “My Salinger Year,” while finding a universal subject in a young person’s coming of age.
“Even though she was talking about something that happened in New York (as a young woman)…I could relate to a lot of it. And I thought that many people could relate to it,” said the French-Canadian director. “The tough part was to make sure that the film was not about Salinger, but about the effect of a writer on a young woman, and her journey to become a writer.”
While Rakoff fielded calls from a number of directors and producers about adapting her international bestseller, she felt that Falardeau “completely understood the world of the book” and the unique story it was bringing to the screen.
“This is a movie that’s very much about women’s experiences. It’s about a relationship between two women, and a coming-of-age story about women,” said Rakoff. “You don’t see that that often.”
The author, who shares an executive producing credit on the movie, noted that beyond the two lead performances, women performed a host of key below-the-line roles, including editor Mary Finlay, production designer Élise de Blois, and cinematographer Sara Mishara. She described it as “a pretty unusual experience” to see so many women calling the shots on set, adding: “Obviously, we need more of that.”