Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Film: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'

I was slightly nervous about seeing this, aware that it features an ailing cat, which would be sufficient to skew my attention and shift the focus to a feature intended to be only incidental (albeit sad) to the main body of the film. Anyway, apart from that I have to say that although finding myself fighting against liking it I was, to a degree, won over by a certain infectious charm, notwithstanding that criminal forgery is central the story.   

Based on true, starting in 1991 New York, it's the story of Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a one-time successful author of biographies of celebrities, whose writing has fallen out of fashion and she is now struggling financially with inability to pay the rent, living alone with the 12-year old cat she dotes on. She befriends an eccentric English barfly, Jack (Richard E.Grant - playing gay, though to my mind not very convincingly) and they 'gell'. In order to generate income she decides to sell some memorabilia letters written by subjects of her earlier books and acquired in her researches, notably those of Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker among others. Then she has the wheeze of adding a self-penned. entertaining postscript to these letters, imitating the literary style of the personage, thus considerably increasing their value. (The title of the film is an oft employed signing-off phrase in letters written by by Miss Parker). Several of the bookshops she approaches are duped into falling for her ruse and pay her the inflated price she demands. Her new friend Jack is roped into the scheme and he enthusiastically assists her in flogging the forgeries.

There are both comic and serious moments in this film, all of which are well handled by director Marielle Heller (though I did pick up on a couple of avoidable continuity lapses) in only her second feature film directing, though her acting career has been fairly substantial.

It's Melissa McCarthy's most substantial role to date and it's delivered with a credible range of emotions. She and Grant have received both Oscar and BAFTA nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor respectively, and I wouldn't argue too much if she won - though she won't, of course.

I liked the film more than I was expecting to. It's a captivating story and, cat aside, I'm content to deliver it some approving noises..............7.

(IMDb................7.3 / Rott. Toms................8.2 )



  1. Thanks for your review. I’ve been curious about this one.

  2. It's an oddity, Mitch - to me a rather engaging one, though I can see that it might alienate some, as I was expecting, even wanting it to be so.

  3. I feel that I must buy Lee Israels book she wrote about this period of her life, to see how much they used in the film. Even if they don't stand too much chance of winning their awards, Richard E Grant has had an absolute ball in the run up to the Oscars. You should follow him on instagram if you don't already...

    1. It's made me curious about Israel's book too, D. I'd never heard of her before now, as I suspect most wouldn't have.
      I wonder how much Grant was disappointed at not getting the big prize last night. I'd guess he'd known that the chances were slim considering the competition - yet there was always just that chance.....
      'Fraid I don't follow anyone on instagram. In fact I don't know what that is! I barely know what a tweet is even, but thanks to the Trump I've got a fair idea. But how one uses it I haven't a clue - and feel I'm too old to bother finding out about these newfangled technologies which have just left me behind. Sorry!