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Can You Ever Forgive Me Review - Brilliant Performances Drive this True Story

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Can You Ever Forgive Me, from Fox Searchlight Pictures, presents the true story of biographer Lee Israel and her foray into the life of forging remembrances of literary masters as she scrounges to make the rent in Manhattan.

 

Directed by Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me stars Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Jane Curtain, Dooly Wells, Christian Navarro, Ben Falcone, Gregory Korostishevesky, Marc Evan Jackson, Stephen Spinella with Anne Deavere Smith.

Can You Ever Forgive Me opens on the night shift at some law firm in Manhattan, with a older women editing copy. The clinking of the ice in her whiskey tumbler disturbs the darkened office just as two young paralegals walk by remarking on the woman's age and her lack of success, ambition and drive and how just the thought of working legal editorial at her age well suicide would be better.


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Answering the snide 20'somethings with a seasoned "fuck off" brings in the nightshift supervisor who has had just enough of the argumentative and unreasonable Ms. Israel. Needless to say she is fired.

Rent is due and as we find out, it is past due, three months, and we find out her case is not to forward to eviction court because she is a writer, a published writer, who has had a book on the New York Times bestseller's list. She is Lee Israel.

Lee, played by Melissa McCarthy, was a successful biographer in the 1970's and 80's who profiled the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estee lauder, and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. Her current project a biographer on Fanny Bryce, is not generating the same type of buzz or opened doors as the others.

Her one bedroom is cramped, and infested with flies. With the rent behind the services are slow and even Lee, who lives her cat, has some decorum and like everyone in those situations tries to avoid confrontation over money or the lack of it.

Trying to scrounge up a few bucks, she schleps an oversized bag of books to a used bookstore who gives her pennies for a few. She explains who she is and the cashier, another 20's something who believes life and the future will turn out exactly as the disjointed five year plan they have contrived on paper progresses points out where her last book is now, turning we see fresh copies on the sale rack.

Her publisher, Marjorie, played by Jane Curtain is hosting a party, and after a crabby exchange when she opens the door, Lee circulates and hits the whiskey. The party, filled with Manhattan's literati, is just interesting enough for Lee to pick up some shocking information.

Desperate for cash, she barges into Marjorie's office explaining she needs an advance and that she overheard at the party that Tom Clancy received a three million dollar advance for his next pop culture expected masterpiece.

Publishers and authors have often a love hate relationship. Now Lee is hearing the sad truth from someone she needs. She is cantankerous, drinks too much, bad-tempered, disagreeable and a grouch. She refuses to play the game and yes those success where wonderful and the culture has changed and no one care about Fanny Bryce.

Off researching a personal note written from Fanny falls from the book. It's personal, charming, and on letterhead. Desperate and with a momentary ping of her conscience, which she dismisses as the rent is due, she takes the letter to a memorabilia shop where the letter is examined and Lee walks out with the first pay day she's had in some time.

Of course, desperate times call for desperate measures and soon Lee has earned a little more from her writing talents. At the local bar, where she has just scored from another sale she meets up with someone who remembered her from a party, Jack Hock, played by Richard E. Grant.

The two drink into the night and an unusual bond develops. Her friendship with Jack Hock, allows her a moment to be someone other than the character she has become in her own biography.

Can You Ever Forgive Me, is truly a great film. The story, we known is true based on Ms. Israel's account of her foray into a life of literary crime. Melissa McCarthy is a crabby writer, we live in her footsteps.

For anyone who has lived in Manhattan, Ms. McCarthy brings the world into her home. It can be seen, even down to the unusual friendship. Granted no one else would have her, as she was down and out.


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Supported by Richard E. Grant who takes on the colorful, dramatic, NYC 1980's gay man, who is also on the edge of acceptance. Of the many things I enjoyed about Can You Ever Forgive Me, the situation authenticity was genuine. The place was obvious, the time and season was captured well.

The audience will know where they are, not only literally but also figuratively. Nuances are well presented and delivered. It's not just a literati film, it is a film of anyone who has had a moment of success, acceptance and taken a hard fall for any reason and in Ms. Israel case not entirely of her own making.

Can You Ever Forgive Me opens October 19, 2018. See this film.

 

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