Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Can You Ever Forgive Me? - Too good to be true

Can You Ever Forgive Me? has been a sleeper of sorts down under, despite its international acclaim. Its limited release is really a shame as it's a real gem. The film is based on a true story of biographer and literary forger Lee Israel.

Melissa McCarthy plays surly Lee with aplomb. Her drinking buddy cum partner in crime, Jack Hook, was a role tailored (in both senses of the word) for Richard E, Grant.

Lee is chalk to Jack's cheese. He is a charmer while she has had a charm by-pass. Her wit is caustic, his self-mocking. He is ostentatiously stylish to her drabness. In addition to their homosexuality, they share a great deal. They are eccentric misfits who have reached the bottom of the barrel, financially and socially. Alcohol oils their collaboration.

As always, New York City provides wonderful sets: the sleazy bars alongside the romance of quality bookshops and book dealers.

For most people in the early 90s, it's just the dawn of the digital age. Letters, handwritten or tapped out on typewriters, are still the norm. Email is still to come for most.

The targets of Israel's scam are easily fooled in this pre-information age, despite the high quality content screaming that it's too good to be true. Many see what they believe, some turn a blind-eye through greed, others are collectable devotees. It was a tribute to Lee's writing skills.

Director Marielle Heller 's second feature film maintains a good balance of drama and comedy.

This is not Wall Street fraud and in many ways they are victimless crimes. To really enjoy this film as I did, it is best not to dwell too long on the ethical aspects of this story. Like the protagonists, the celebrity authors are long gone.