In the summer of 1977, a young woman named Calista finds work on famed Hollywood director Billy Wilder's film set. The filming takes them to Munich, where Wilder grapples with his family history. This tender and intimate novel examines the nature of time and fame, of family, and of the treacherous lure of nostalgia.
Outstanding ... Coe succeeds in bringing life to the complex, charismatic Wilder. He surrounds Wilder with perfectly achieved portraits ... In a sense, Mr Wilder and Me is the novel toward which Coe’s fiction has always been heading ... By focusing on Wilder’s autumnal period of decline, the novel becomes a meditation on age and creativity, on the arc of an artistic career ... Coe expertly weaves together the different strands of the novel ... The novel summons up and reclaims the director’s 'lost' presence; the endnotes reveal that many of the dialogues reproduce his words verbatim. Coe’s novel continues his conversation with Billy. By bringing back the great director’s wit and humanity, Coe delivers the full fruits of his obsession to us.
You don’t have to be a film buff to love acclaimed British author Jonathan Coe’s at once melancholic and laugh-out-loud funny novel Mr. Wilder and Me. But don’t be surprised if reading it inspires you to binge-watch Hollywood movie classics written and directed by cinema great Billy Wilder (1906-2002) ... The 'me' of the title is first-person narrator Calista Frangopoulou, whose fictional life story Coe nimbly intertwines with Wilder’s real-life history. Theirs is not a romantic love story, but something more tender and rare: a charming, ironic fairy tale about an accidental, intergenerational friendship that, even as it changes the entire trajectory of young Calista’s future will also help the aging Wilder accept his own limitations ... [a] gem of a novel.
Begins on familiar terrain ... All suggest another satire of arty, upper-middle-class English life. But the novel that follows turns out to be sweeter and less embarrassed by sentiment. It also ventures much further afield ... Coe positions Calista cleverly to contrast her with the two Hollywood big shots at the heart of her 'memoir' ... But in spite of the finely calibrated plausibility of her contact with fame, Coe isn’t really aiming at modest realism here. Some of the dialogue feels straightforwardly informational ... All of these games allow for a certain amount of meta-reflection on the nature of art — writing and filmmaking — and the way that even great artists have to come to terms with their diminishing relevance ... In its own quiet way, the novel is as odd as the movie it describes: part Hollywood biopic, part Holocaust memoir, part middle-class domestic drama. What holds it together is the hard kernel of historical fact at its core.