2019 Film Reviews - 12: Can You Ever Forgive Me? [dir. Marielle Heller; 2018]
While watching Can You Ever Forgive Me? - Marielle Heller’s touching, cigarette-and-booze infused account of writer Lee Israel’s initially successful attempts to earn a living by forging celebrity letters - it’s interesting to ask, “Why now?” Yes, the movie is well-paced (partly thanks to a spry jazz soundtrack), cleverly designed (there are several gorgeously detailed interiors) and wonderfully performed (both Melissa McCarthy and especially Richard E Grant deserve all the praise they’re receiving for their witty, sensitive portrayals) but that doesn’t feel like sufficient explanation for why it appears to have struck such a powerful chord with audiences. It could be because sharp-tongued grumpiness often plays well on screen: see As Good As It Gets for another example. But perhaps the real reason for the film's success lies in its careful laying down of boundary lines between the haves and the have nots: a strategy that is probably bound to win sympathy in these relatively divided times. Even as her exploits sink to their most criminal depths, Israel somehow manages to keep us on her side, perhaps because what she’s effectively doing is pulling the wool over the eyes of people who - as she might see it - have more money than sense. And it’s this feeling of superiority that ultimately makes the film an unsettling, spiky-hearted piece of work, rather than the cosy, feel-good comedy as which it’s being sold. Worth seeking out.