When Lee Israel falls out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception. An adaptation of the memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the true story of best-selling celebrity biographer Lee Israel.
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Felix van Groeningen
Following the critical and commercial failure of her biography of Estée Lauder, author Lee Israel struggles with financial troubles, writer's block and alcoholism. With her agent unable to secure her an advance for a new biography, Israel is forced to sell her possessions to cover her expenses; she sells a personal letter she received from Katharine Hepburn to Anna, a local book dealer. While conducting research for a novel about Fanny Brice, Israel happens upon a letter from Brice folded in a book, which she takes and offers to sell to Anna. She offers Israel a low price due to the letter's lack of interesting content. Israel begins to forge and sell letters by deceased writers, playwrights, and actors, lacing them with intimate details to command a higher price. Anna, who is a fan of Israel's own writing, attempts to initiate a romantic relationship with her, but is rebuffed..
A pile of Lee Israel books ("Beyond the Magic", an unauthorized biography of Estee Lauder) are shown on sale at a bookstore for 75% off. Lauder was publishing her own memoirs and initially tried to pay Israel *not* to write her book, but she refused and rushed her book to publication. The autobiography was released in October 1985 and Israel's biography one month later. The book buying public chose to buy the Lauder's autobiography rather than the Israel's biography. Lee Israel later said she regretted not taking the money when it was first offered. See more »
The word " backstory " is used, despite not being widely used at the time this story takes place. See more »
This next song goes out to all the agoraphobic junkies who couldn't be here tonight.
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A thoughtful, refreshing comedic drama with a stellar central performance
Stellar performances and strong writing/direction present a refreshing blend of subtly unique outsider characters (Lee and Jack have great chemistry-just wish there was another dialogue with Anna), fringe city settings (dilapidated apartments, smoky bars, dusty bookstores), and-with equal parts humour and tragedy-themes of loneliness, poverty, and the search for happiness (see Lee enjoying the music at the pub). The courtroom climax is a bit contrived, but the bar reunion afterwards is perfect.
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