Sep 14, 2019
We made it! The end of the third quarter for One Movie Punch! Two weeks off from posting episodes to gear up for Reign of Terror 2019 – 31 straight days of horror film reviews and interviews from yours truly, One Movie Spouse and the rest of our team of critics, and many podcast guests joining the fun! While we’re getting ready, you should check out a few of Amy’s other reviews, including “Plus One” (Episode #573), “Blinded by the Light” (Episode #580), and last week’s disappointing review for “Chopsticks” (Episode #587).
Before we get started, we have a promo from our friends at the Movie Geek and Proud Podcast, who were one of our very first Takeover Tuesday participants with a review of 1993’s “Addams Family Values” (Episode #261). Be sure to catch their recent posts covering “IT: Chapter Two”. You can find out more at mgppodcast.podbean.com and connect with them on Twitter @MGnPpodcast, on Facebook @Movie Geek and Proud, and on Instagram @moviegeekandproud.
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Here we go!
<< MOVIE GEEK AND PROUD PROMO >>
JOSEPH: “Hello! It’s me, Amy. AKA One Movie Spouse. MWAH! I might sound a little different today, but I assure you this recording has been certified by an authenticator, and has not been embellished in any way. I’ve been so busy at school, lately...”
AMY: “What are you doing?”
JOSEPH: “What? Oh, well, since we’re cutting it so close, I thought I would start recording.”
AMY: “Without me?”
JOSEPH: “Well, yeah. Pretty good, eh?”
AMY: “I sound nothing like that. It’s offensive!”
JOSEPH: “Oh, sorry.”
AMY: “Don’t. Don’t you dare!”
JOSEPH: “Can you ever forgive me?”
AMY: “Only if you get out right now and let me finish.”
JOSEPH: “You got it!”
AMY: “Now, where were we?"
Today’s movie is “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, the historical drama directed by Marielle Heller and written for the screen by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty. In 1991 Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a lesbian biographer, has fallen on financial troubles after her last book failed critically and commercially. Facing eviction, she sells a personal letter to help make ends meet, then stumbles into forging and embellishing letters from other celebrities with the help of her new friend, Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant).
I entered this film knowing nothing about the story of Lee Israel. Less than nothing, really. I was more interested in seeing a larger range from Melissa McCarthy, who first found fame as Sookie St. James on “Gilmore Girls”, plus a few other shows, until launching a string of full-on comedy films that would initially define her film career. Not all of those films were well received by the critics, nor the fans, but they were all able to put a smile on your face. Under all those roles, though, you know McCarthy has range, so when she was first nominated Best Actress in a Drama at the Golden Globes this year, then later Best Lead Actress at the Oscars, I knew I wanted to see this film.
After seeing the film, she absolutely deserved both nominations. Lee Israel is not an easy character to play, nor develop, but McCarthy brings her to life. From the start, we get a well-defined picture of who Lee Israel was, and who she has become, in a desperate montage that introduces us to her, along with the often exploitative New York bookseller scene. Sure, McCarthy nails Israel’s often acerbic humor, but she also creates a much deeper character than many of the comedic roles that brought her to prominence. We truly do get to see Heller find the depths of McCarthy’s range, and I hope this film leads to more dramatic roles for McCarthy.
Praise for McCarthy aside, Richard E. Grant is also great as John Hock, Lee Israel’s gay partner-in-crime, struggling with drug addiction and the underlying fears of the escalating AIDS crisis, earning him nominations for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars and Golden Globes as well. It is a magnificent supporting role, with enough character to be distinct, but never eclipsing the main focus on Israel and her forgery scam. The two carry the bulk of the story very well.
Regarding the story, unless you are a literary nerd like Joseph, you may be shocked at just how awful the booksellers can be. The opening montage, and the trailer, show one bookseller offering a paltry amount for a stack of Israel’s books, rude and condescending. Buy low, sell high might make business sense, but with each sale, we come to find that the booksellers themselves often knowingly trade in forgeries, and consistently lowball people selling high quality goods. We come to admire Israel’s hustle at the start, even knowing it can’t last forever. Her actions become a polite middle finger to the industry that cares little about authors, and everything about the dollars.
The film also feels very much like 1991, a time with no cell phones, few computers, and still possible to pull off forgery scams like this, before technology would advance the literary document authentication industry further and further. Watching Israel use multiple typewriters, to avoid the signatures that typewriters can have, is fascinating. The New York locations haven’t changed that much in terms of structure, and the timeless look of high-end New York booksellers never detracts from the feel. Costumes, setting, furniture, even the music all lines up. All of this provides the backdrop to tell this amazing and insightful story.
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”is a fun crime film about an interesting character, brought to life by an impressive performance by Melissa McCarthy, and supported by an equally great supporting performance from Richard E. Grant. Heller nails the period aspects of the film, and really pulls everything together for an entertaining, high quality biopic. Fans of biopics, the literary world, or Melissa McCarthy should definitely check out this film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98% (CERTIFIED FRESH)
Metacritic: 87 (MUST SEE)
One Movie Punch: 9.0/10
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”(2018) is rated R and is currently playing on HBO.
JOSEPH: “Whew! Made it this week with nothing happening. Can’t wait for this break.”
AMY: “Seems like something horrible should have happened, what with it being after Friday the 13th and all?”
JOSEPH: “I know, right?"
JOSEPH: "Anyway, I'm going to start closing up the One Movie Punch Secret Volcano Lair and will meet you back home.”
AMY: “All right!”
JOSEPH: “Always the best! See you soon!”
AMY: “Oh. It looks like he forgot to make the rest of these Patreon episodes public. I’ll just take care of that for him, and he can fix it when he gets back if it's not right.”
JOSEPH: “Well, that takes care of that. Can’t wait for a vacation I’ll actually enjoy!”
SHANE: “It would not be a vacation he would enjoy.”
SHANE: “Join us in two weeks when One Movie Punch Presents: REIGN OF TERROR 2019!”