Can You Ever Forgive Me? was a welcome discovery. I’ve been a fan of Melissa McCarthy for years, but her last few films have been dreck. However, I never expected a serious look at the Lee Israel scandal to be a big deal. The memoir was a medium level hit in the literature world, then tapered off until Lee Israel died in 2014. Julianne Moore was going to star in the first attempt at filming this around the same time. However, that died too.
What followed was a streamlining approach to telling the central story and making it properly ugly. This isn’t a slam on any of the parties involved, but how the film is shot in such dour colors. I grew up in a time where Solondz and the rise of nastier indie cinema portrayed the world as plain as possible. Director Marielle Heller doesn’t hate her characters in the same regard, but she is willing to dim their world. Even when the delightful Richard E. Grant shows up, his sarcastic style is still tempered by the general sense of gloom present.
I still enjoy Melissa McCarthy regardless of her film output from 2015 to present. The best talent has slumps and real fans will always enjoy when those streaks get broken. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is the kind of film that many actors would kill to have on their resume. Some play it too big and others play it to small. McCarthy wants you to understand why Lee Israel did what she did and why she wasn’t sorry.
The modern American sensitive audience wants to see films with firmly defined rules and regulations. It’s incredibly bizarre to see audience standards starting to resemble that of the Hays Office. But, the last couple of years have been odd for everyone. So why is now the time to make a movie about something like intellectual fraud? The act has existed for years, what is with the modern fascination?
Well, white collar crime isn’t always the most cinematic of endeavors. What the crime does allow us for an unfamiliar audience to learn the psychological makeup of the perpetrators. Sometimes, the cinema can be a fun place to get to learn about real people doing awful things. Some relish in the cult of personality that comes from being awful. But, I think Lee Israel did it to survive. There is nothing wrong with that, but you have to take the perks with the consequences. Great stuff.