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Drama - Crime

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2019 in Spain)


Elevator Pitch.

A celebrity biographer who has fallen on hard times is harrassed by her landlord, can’t get the vet to look at her cat, and is lectured by her agent, but due to a chance discovery of a couple of letters while researching Fanny Brice, which she is able to sell, one of them with some modifications, she takes up a new career as a writer of fake celebrity letters. When she is blacklisted by dealers who suspect the origins of her work she enlists the help of a gay friend who has taken up residence on her sofa, but can they continue to escape the attention of the law?


The biographer, Lee Israel, attends a party at her agent’s. They argue. She loses a job because she drinks, she makes friends with Jack in Julius, one of New York’s best known gay watering holes. She writes the clever letters in the styles of the people who are supposed to have written them, which have to include something risque for them to have value. She has dinner with a possible date, another lady, but things do not progress. Her gay friend is not reliable and his sexual activity is inferred; no sex or nudity, but a lot of drinking.

A View.

Almost predictably the critics, or 98% of them, loved this. It ticked a lot of boxes, the lead actress cast against type, a lesbian and gay friendship taking place in a famous bar and a lot of literary references. But there was quite a bit I did not like. A lot of time is spent in semi-darkness and actually a sort of fragmented narrative;  many of the summaries presented in the reviews unintentionally reference the actual story rather than that presented in the film, which is not quite the same. So for me, only a watch if you like that sort of thing.

Duration 1h 46m Rating (UK) 15
Source of story Real events and a book by Lee Israel (who died in 2014) called “Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger” written in 2008.
Director Marielle Heller
Writers/Script Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone, Jane Curtin
Additional Info In the closing credits we get some important info. Lee Israel wrote 400 fake celebrity letters two of which were included in the first printing of a Noël Coward biography.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels


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