Last week, a cinema-loving friend reminded me that I had not recently blogged any movie reviews. I have a funny thing about only reviewing movies that I physically see in a theater and since we have moved up into the mountains, it is not very easy to get to a movie theater. We do have a small, independent theater in our town, but I found the experience to be sub-par. The screens and sound quality are fine, but many of the other movie goers treated it as though they are in their living rooms at home; talking ( including shouting across the aisles) and liberal use of their cell phones. Argh!!! The next nearest option for a theater is over an hour away, so we simply have been watching movies at home.
Last week, I had the opportunity to travel with my husband and we saw three movies. I was in heaven! I’m going to use these three films as a springboard to get back into blogging my film reviews. Hopefully, our snowy winter will soon turn to a warm spring and we will have more travel opportunities that will take us near theaters in 2019.
The first film that I saw last week was the biopic of author Lee Israel ( Melissa McCarthy), called Can You Ever Forgive Me?. Israel wrote biographies of celebrities, such as make-up maven Estee Lauder, but found her career plummeting in the early 90’s. Israel’s agent started ignoring her, when Israel failed to come up with an exciting book proposal. Israel became desperate to earn money and began selling off her possessions, when she hit on an idea. She could create letters from famous authors and forge their signatures. She was able to sell thousands of forged letters, before her friend, Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) turned her into the FBI.
I had not previously heard of Israel and I found her story to be fascinating. The most compelling part was her passion to be recognized as a great writer, a writer as good, if not better, than the famous authors that she was pretending to be. She needed the money to survive, but more than that, her sense of self needed the validation. There is a wonderful scene at the end of the film, which shows Israel walking past a collectors shop and noticing one of her forgeries is still for sale, this is after she has been caught. She has a gleeful moment, when she is able to tell the shop owner that he is trying to sell a fake. She has the power to reveal the truth or to keep it a secret, and that sense of power gives her the validation that she needs. She might never be famous or rich, but she has the talent.
Israel’s story is also a very sad situation. She is a recluse and has trouble connecting with people. Hock seems to be her friend, but he is a mess himself and very self-involved. She tries to date Anna (Dolly Wells), a sweet bookseller, who Israel is also scamming through her forgeries. As soon as Anna realizes the situation, her relationship with Israel is damaged beyond repair. I got the feeling that Israel would like to be able to connect with people, but that it is extremely difficult for her and her drive to have her talent validated, supersedes anything else in her life. The only other living thing that she shows love towards, is her cat. As a cat lover myself, I could understand their bond. However, Israel struggles to take care of herself, let alone her beloved cat, and lives in a filthy apartment, allowing cat shit to pile under her bed. Although she loves her cat, she simply is too mentally unbalanced to take proper care.
Going way back to Gilmore Girls, I’ve been a fan of McCarthy. She shines as Israel, proving that she is equally adept at drama, as she is at comedy. Although she did not win, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Can You Ever Forgive Me?. She was also nominated ( and won) a 2019 Golden Raspberry for two films: The Happytime Murders and Life of the Party. Honestly, my husband and I watched both The Happytime Murders and Life of the Party, and enjoyed them. They were both entertaining and even though many may considered them to be the bottom of the bucket films for 2018, it wasn’t because McCarthy was terrible in them. I hope that she relished and had a sense of humor regarding the various nominations. Grant was also nominated for an Academy Award (but did not win) as a supporting actor for Can Your Ever Forgive Me? He was very good as Hock, but I found his character difficult to like. Israel needed a true friend at the time that he entered her life, yet the entire time I wanted her to disengage, to realize that he was no good.
Can You Ever Forgive Me is a compelling true story with stellar performances. Israel has a big ego and little to lose, making her a great anti-hero in this shocking true story.