Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a relatively conventional biopic, but it’s easily the pick of this month’s awards contenders. Set in a wintry early-1990s New York, it stars Melissa McCarthy as celebrity biographer Lee Israel, a single, middle-aged lesbian with a sardonic wit, misanthropic tendencies and a penchant for daytime drinking. Falling behind on rent payments, and faced with hefty vet bills when her beloved cat falls sick, she begins forging letters from literary icons and selling them as collectors’ items. She finds an eager accomplice in Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), a booze-addled dandy she meets in Julius’, a venerable Greenwich Village gay bar. Director Marielle Heller lovingly evokes a bygone era, in which books were still at the centre of popular culture and pockets of Manhattan still possessed a modicum of dishevelled bohemian charm. And the film excels both as a bittersweet platonic love story, and as a rare queer narrative that doesn’t revolve around sex, coming out or discrimination.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? | Directed by Marielle Heller (US 2018) with Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant. Starts February 21.
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