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CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

SYNOPSIS:
When Lee Israel falls out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception. An adaptation of the memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the true story of best-selling celebrity biographer Lee Israel.

Review by Louise Keller:
It's a great story (true of course) and the idea of a renegade biographer with a religion of caustic wit embellishing letters of famous literary figures in line with their personalities, is irresistible. Based on Lee Israel's book of the same name, there are many elements that make this film rather special. The implied sacrilege to write in the name of the likes of Noel Coward, Fanny Bryce and Dorothy Parker is one element, but Israel's backstory, how it all began and how it plays out, is fascinating. Human behavior is as thrilling to observe as any thriller.

Not the least, the film offers comedienne Melissa McCarthy an opportunity to play a straight, dramatic role. That's not to say, the character she plays is straight. Or boring. On the contrary. The role is a gift to McCarthy and for once, she is able to flesh out her character beyond the superficial and develop Israel's foibles, personality issues and dysfunctional relationships.

Additionally, there's a peach of a role for Richard E. Grant as Jack Hock: a dapper, outrageous rascal who lives every day as though it is his last - in a bid to counter the notion that 'life is dreary'. Hock admits he is not good at reading social cues. The same could be said for Israel. Watch for the scene when they first meet in a bar. The mood instantly lifts. The dynamic between McCarthy and Grant is terrific - there is a feeling of spontaneity about each of their scenes together, and we never know where their relationship is headed.

When the film begins, it is the wee small hours of the morning (3.30am to be precise) in 1991. Israel is slurping her generous scotch at her desk at The New Yorker and not bothering to keep her temper (or language) in check. This is the beginning of her downhill slide, starting with unemployment. Desperate circumstances provide the motivation to find a new way to earn money. We see Israel's lack of people skills first hand (she admits to liking cats more than humans) and the scenes when a vulnerable relationship develops with Anna (Dolly Wells, a beautifully judged performance) are quite moving.

I love the meticulous way Israel carries out her deception, collecting different typewriters and confidently writing creative material about which collectors and brokers salivate. Ultimately, Marielle Heller's film is an insight into a creative soul lacking in social skills and whose audacity is the springboard for discovery in this highly entertaining film.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? (M)
(US, 2018)

CAST: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone, Gregory Korostishevsky, Jane Curtin, Stephen Spinella, Christian Navarro

PRODUCER: Anne Carey, Amy Nauiokas, David Yarnell

DIRECTOR: Marielle Heller

SCRIPT: Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brandon Trost

EDITOR: Anne McCabe

MUSIC: Nate Heller

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen H. Carter

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 6, 2018







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