My Salinger Year: Joanna is a young woman who writes in this 2020 movie. She is an aspiring writer anyway. She was attending Berkeley but then on a whim mid-semester decides to move to New York City. She wants to actually write and do what other famous writers do; sit in cafes and write while staying in dumpy apartments. If she is going to stay in New York she must find a job. She lands a job in a literary agents office. Sigourney Weaver plays her old school boss reminiscent of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Not quite as ruthless. Joanna takes on a secretary’s role and putting her writing aside. She is kept busy with busy work, but nothing substantial. One of her jobs is to dismiss with form letter all the letters to them for JD Salinger.
She juggles her job, her career aspirations, her relationship. One of the clients in this agency, incidentally is the aforementioned JD Salinger of Catcher in the Rye fame. Truth be told I read the book and didn’t like it. I likely didn’t get it. But that’s okay. Art is personal and what some think is excellent, others disagree. Joanna has her own struggles and these are personal and real. The actress, Margaret Qualley, who plays her is likeable and engaging in the way that Darren Starr would likely have hoped that Lily Collins was in Emily in Paris. Joanna has a good rapport with her coworkers, she is bright, astute, and has a good rapport with the clients of the business. In the end she has choices to make and these are interesting. Some may really like Emily in Paris, but for me it seems superficial and unrealistic. Maybe that is the point but we aren’t really telling stories that feel like stories about real people. I enjoyed this and was worth the time. Certainly it was more interesting than Emily. I would rather share a drink with Joanna than Emily on a day in her life.
I watched The Command (aka Kursk) again this weekend and I am reminded just how difficult it is to watch young men sacrifice their lives for no reason. It has a good cast and there are compelling performances. Like Chernobyl it shows how individuals are treated like disposable assets, even those who dedicate their lives to protecting the people of the State with the Navy.
First off this week I will note that the TIFF film Kursk that I saw two years ago, reviewed and liked here, is now available on Netflix but it’s called The Command. It’s worth checking out and builds on the theme from Chernobyl with government pride (and I will purposely not call in Russian pride since I believe many countries and people can suffer from the same ailment) impacting their citizens negatively by choosing to not accept outside help and believing that they have a situation under control. This is based on a true story. No matter your politics or thoughts on Russians, this movie provides sympathy for sailors and their families, and not just sailors but submariners who I regard as extraordinary people who can go months without seeing the sun or even the sky. It’s worth checking out.
In the theatre I went to see the well reviewed Parasite. It is a South Korean film which won the Palme D’or at Cannes Film Festival this year (Best Picture). This is first South Korean film ever to win. This is no small feat. I went in not knowing what to expect. It is a story about a poor family of four that manages to infiltrate and become more involved with a very successful family with two young children, stay at home Mom and well known father. It starts with the friend of the poor family’s son seeking help to fill in to tutor the older girl of the rich family. The friend was leaving for overseas, and needed a fill in. The younger poor son agrees, while getting a recommendation from the friend, and forging some documents with qualifications from his sister. He gets the job. Soon enough he invites his sister to help with the young boy and the story continues. There are some genuine surprises that I won’t divulge. They are worthy of a good script where a family learns some valuable lessons, and at unexpected costs. Last year I scratched my head and didn’t understand all the love for Roma, with all the kudos and great reviews that it received. It made me a little skeptical heading into this one. I see this film more along the same theme of Shoplifters. Also the really good Burning. In the end, there are funny moments, and some surprising moments. Worth seeing if not in the theatre but ahold it get to Netflix or other.
On Netflix I did catch Only The Brave which is based upon the true story of a firefighting brigade (troop) based in Arizona. The group was elite in fighting outdoor raging fires. They were highly trained and counted on to take risks. It comes with the familiar trappings with an outsider looking to join who had challenges earlier in his life, and he wants to do the right thing with his new baby and baby Mama. The troop is trained by a hard nosed veteran (Josh Brolin) who plays the role as expected. There are new colleagues that have a history that they must address. Others are looking to gel into this elite fighting group. Add to that spouses and significant others. One is Jennifer Connolly, playing Brolin’s wife, who after master performance in A Beautiful Mind hasn’t found a role worthy of her talents. This is no exception. It is unfortunate that she can’t get better roles to test her and push her talents. Back to the movie, the group shows their talent in various situations and then there is a fire in Yarnell Hill, Arizona in June 2013. I didn’t know the story before watching this. I followed up a bit after seeing it. I was reading that there were challenges carried on for many involved here and that is sad to hear. It was okay. Not great. But a story good to know.