If Lee Israel was to be defined by the title of ‘literary forger’ alone, it would be a waste. She is a writer, yes, and she embellished over 400 letters from writers and actors, that’s true. But in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the film based on her confessional autobiography, Israel’s identity is explored for its intricacies; the alcoholic necessity, the creative insecurity, and the emotional vacuity. Following her charming debut The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Marielle Heller directs the story of a woman who could be considered problematic or unlikeable, with a light touch and tremendous empathy.
Lee (Melissa McCarthy) is a struggling writer whose agent won’t call her back. She sips scotch and soda to tolerate the sound of a successful man at a party telling his entourage that he doesn’t subscribe to the term ‘writer’s block’. She’s late on her rent and can’t afford the vet’s fees to find out what’s wrong with her cat, Jersey. And the new Fanny Brice biography Lee’s working on isn’t set to change these financial woes.
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