Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a biographical film directed by Marielle Heller. The screenplay is by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, based on Lee Israel’s 2008 memoir of the same name. Can You Ever Forgive Me? tells the true story of a writer who has fallen on hard times and turns to illegal methods of making ends meet. This movie has flown way under the radar, as it appears to have been looked on as the book Lee Israel wrote in the movie. I’m so glad I got to see Can You Ever Forgive Me? it’s truly a block buster in it’s own right.
**** SOME SPOILERS ****
Following the critical and commercial failure of her biography of Estée Lauder, author Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) is struggling with financial troubles, writer’s block and alcoholism. Because her agent Marjorie (Jane Curtain), is unable to secure Lee with an advance for a new biography, she is forced to find another way to make money. Lee lugs a ton of heavy books to a pawn shop for books but can only get $2.00 and some nasty attitude for all her effort. Further, her beloved cat is sick and needs medication. Lee decides to sell a personal letter she received from Katharine Hepburn to Anna (Dolly Wells), a local book dealer in order to cover her expenses.
While at the library conducting research about Fanny Brice, for a novel she’s planning to write, Lee happens upon an actual letter from Ms. Brice folded in the book. She swipes the letter and offers to sell it to Anna, who can’t give much due to the letter’s lack of interesting content. That’s when Lee begins to forge and sell letters by deceased writers, playwrights and actors, by embellishing them with juicy, intimate details that command a higher price. Anna, who is a fan of Lee’s writing as an author, attempts to initiate a relationship with her. Lee being very private and unfriendly most of the time, rejects the relationship with Anna.
When one of Lee’s letters written by Noël Coward raises suspicion for its unguarded discussion of his sexuality, she is blacklisted by her buyers. Unable to sell the forgeries herself, she has her new best friend, Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) sell the letters for her. While Lee was away attempting to enhance her forgery business, she trusted Jack to take care of her apartment and her cat. Upon her return, she ends their relationship after finding her apartment trashed and her cat dead. Later Jack and Lee are served with a court summons by the FBI for forgery.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is based on a true story and presents a nice change and a nice rest from all the action movies. There are times when you think Lee is going to do something predictable, then surprised when she does something totally opposite. Although I’ve told much of the story, I’ve also left out much of the story. Melissa McCarthy has given a fantastic performance if not her best performance. She is completely believable and convincing as the writer, Lee Israel. Richard E. Grant was absolutely brilliant as Jack Hock, a friendly gay man with a secret. I was thoroughly entertained and learned a thing or two about the world of authentic letter buying. For me, this movie is what going to the movies is all about. Excellent story — Brilliant acting — Check It Out!
[Can You Ever Forgive Me? is Oscar nominated for Best: Actress, Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay]