Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Julia Hoepfner reviews latest film Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Julia Hoepfner
18th February 2019
Image: YouTube

It is no secret that a good film requires a good script and in this film authorship becomes the central figure of the movie. Directed by Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is based on writer Lee Israel´s memoirs as a literary forger of the same name. Set in the nineties, the film follows the best-selling celebrity biographer going through rough times. She turns her skills for research and writing into a criminal career, forging and selling hundreds of letters imitating literary and famous personalities.

Certainly a strength of the film is the cast, whose powerful performances are acknowledged by various award nominations. For both the Oscars and the BAFTAs, Melissa McCarthy (Lee Israel) and Richard E. Grant (Jack Hock) can hope to bring home a trophy for their roles as leading actress and supporting actor. It is great to see complex characters that do not adhere to mainstream Hollywood´s norms. The female lead is not simply beautiful and one-dimensional. She is rude, middle-aged, homosexual, a massive cat lover and an alcoholic. Music and lightning stress the protagonist´s loneliness. Both Israel and her friend/accomplice Hock are characters with flaws, whose struggles in life make them more relatable. Unique voices that are refreshingly non-conformist.

This character-driven narrative is not carried by enormous action, but its pointed dialogue and sense of humour.

Since writing itself is the central theme of the movie, a closer look to the script seems reasonable. Nominated for several awards as best adapted screenplay, Can You Ever Forgive Me? convinces with its witty writing style. This character-driven narrative is not carried by enormous action, but its pointed dialogue and sense of humour. The overall narrative arch may not be too surprising, but the originality of the character´s voices makes it still enjoyable to watch.

With a wink, the film looks at pretentious elitist literary circles and how this writer fools them. The film discusses the notion of an author´s originality and the importance of finding your own unique voice. Can You Ever Forgive Me? commemorates Lee Israel herself port-mortem, when she was (in)famous for imitating others during lifetime.

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