MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
This film’s title does a good job describing the thesis of this movie, for it presents the true-life story of Lee Israel (McCarthy), a writer of celebrity profiles, who found herself at rock bottom in the early 1990s. Her last book on Estée Lauder was a commercial flop and her agent (Jane Curtin) was disinterested in her pitch for a biography of Fanny Brice. Israel’s drinking was out of control and she was unable to keep other jobs in the workplace. In addition, she was a bit of a social curmudgeon and not welcome in the inner circles of the publishing world.
On a whim, she copies a letter of Fanny Brice that she sees in a rare book shop window. She is told that the letter is of some interest and value but would be worth much more if it was more distinctive. Israel retypes the letter and adds a humorous postscript in the style of Brice. True to form, she reaps a bigger harvest. And so a new career as a forger of celebrity letters begins.
Israel receives moral support from Jack Hock (Grant), a fellow barfly at the local bar, another loner who fills his days with drinking and casual one-night stands. Things become more morally complicated when Israel begins a deeper friendship with Anna (Dolly Wells), a bookshop owner who has been purchasing her bogus documents.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? offers little in the areas of suspense or surprise, but it is an excellent character study of broken people in search of connection. Melissa McCarthy helps you feel empathetic for a person you might otherwise ignore, and Richard E. Grant makes a great sparring partner. The script is filled with witty dialogue and ironic humor, developing into a morality play with emotional heft.
I also appreciated the world of this film – the LGBTQ community of the East Village – presented without sensation. If the church is serious about becoming a more inclusive community, it needs to consider widening its circle of understanding. This film may be of some help in the process.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Three halos: A disarming character study about two lost souls seeking meaning through a game of deception.
Three pitchforks: Pervasive swearing; alcoholism and drug use; implied promiscuity; deceit.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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