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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Courtney B. Vance
Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) who made her living in the 1970's and 80's profiling the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estee Lauder and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. When Lee is no longer able to get published because she has fallen out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception, abetted by her loyal friend Jack (Richard E. Grant). An adaptation of the memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the true story of best-selling celebrity biographer (and friend to cats).Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
This movie has the typical issues of a serious movie version of a book by and about an unlikable, real person. Melissa McCarthy gives a fine performance as Lee Israel, a writer on the slide, alcoholic, depressed, and broke, who eases into selling forged and stolen autographed letters from bygone celebrities. Like many a performance depicting a depressed character, she shows a low affect, which is often bleak and uninteresting, ameliorated by a foul mouth and her love for her pet cat -- if you're a cat lover, which I am not. Richard E. Grant has a more interesting role as the gay hustler who sponges off her, and ultimately becomes an accomplice in her schemes. Yet the essential stupidity of his character makes the movie turn into a small-scale tragedy about people for whom the audience can feel no real sympathy.
Given the subject and the characters, the performances and movie can be seen as a bit of a triumph, but in the end, I could not really care about anyone in the movie. The most interesting thing about it were the scenes shot in the venerable Argosy Book Store, where I have been a customer for half a century -- it looks like the first time in longer than that that the place was neatened, even minimally.
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