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Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

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When Lee Israel falls out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception.

Director:

Marielle Heller

Writers:

Nicole Holofcener (screenplay by), Jeff Whitty (screenplay by)
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Popularity
1,039 ( 93)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 50 wins & 82 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Melissa McCarthy ... Lee Israel
Richard E. Grant ... Jack Hock
Dolly Wells ... Anna
Ben Falcone ... Alan Schmidt
Gregory Korostishevsky ... Andre
Jane Curtin ... Marjorie
Stephen Spinella ... Paul
Christian Navarro ... Kurt
Pun Bandhu ... Agent Doyle
Erik LaRay Harvey ... Agent Solonas
Brandon Scott Jones ... Glen
Shae D'lyn ... Nell
Rosal Colon ... Rachel
Anna Deavere Smith ... Elaine
Marc Evan Jackson ... Lloyd
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Storyline

Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) 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?" relays the true story of the best-selling celebrity biographer (and friend to cats). Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Her greatest work will be her biggest crime.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language including some sexual references, and brief drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 November 2018 (South Africa) See more »

Also Known As:

Can You Ever Forgive Me? See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$161,510, 21 October 2018, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$8,803,865, 14 March 2019
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie is full of nods to 'Withnail & I', which was Richard E Grant's first feature in 1987:
  • Grant standing under an umbrella in the rain.
  • Grant ordering 'Two double whiskeys'.
  • Grant saying 'chin chin'.
  • Clearing up a dirty kitchen and apartment that has rotting matter in it.
See more »

Goofs

When Lee is seen walking toward the 86th Street subway station, she passes the Citibank branch at 86th and Broadway, with an advertisement for Citi Priority Banking in the window. Citi Priority did not exist until 2016. See more »

Quotes

Lee Israel: I have figured out a way to pay my bills, without shoveling shit, and it is a good feeling.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Closing credits appear onscreen as if typewritten. See more »

Alternate Versions

Ahead of the film's release in Australia, the distributor chose to pre-cut the film in order to obtain an M classification. These changes removed detail of hard drug misuse (cocaine snorting) through re-framing, and also removed the film's sole use of very strong language by re-dubbing the term with a milder phrase. The uncut international version was later approved for a DVD/Video release with an uncut MA15+ classification. See more »


Soundtracks

Steeple
Written by Alexander McCabe
Performed by Alexander McCabe
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Want to buy some illusions?
21 October 2018 | by mukava991See all my reviews

The celebrity biographer Lee Israel was in her own way an expert spinner of "alternative facts" and "fake news" decades before both became commonplace in the digital age. Plenty of people who should have known better were willing to accept these "facts" and spread this "news."

Melissa McCarthy reaches an artistic career peak with her performance as the late writer who had been one of the top names in her field in the 70s and early 80s before cultural evolution (or devolution, depending on how you look at it) combined with her own abrasiveness and alcoholism led publishers to shun her work. McCarthy adapts her familiar techniques perfectly to this particular character.

With bills mounting, and facing loss of prestige and income, she began drinking heavily and sinking into a deep, almost psychotic, depression when, half by chance, she discovered that a lot of money could be made by selling letters from famous people like Katharine Hepburn and Fanny Brice. The juicier the content, the more cash they commanded. A talented and witty writer herself, she was familiar enough with the style of the such figures as Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker to forge imitations that convinced professional collectors of their authenticity. Quotes from some of her fakes even ended up in respectable publications. Eventually she resorted to doctoring correspondence which she stole from libraries and selling the results for high prices to sometimes shady dealers. Here was someone who loved and respected outstanding writers and their works but was driven by circumstance to, in effect, falsifying their legacies.

Some of the little touches that deepen our understanding of her character include a scene where she is watching the 1941 film version of "The Little Foxes" and starts delivering the dialogue along with the actors and even accurately imitating Bette Davis's distinctive giggle. Much of the time she is swilling scotch and her ever-so-slightly slurred speech reflects this half-inebriated state.

The movie is shot in New York, making use of locations that still look much as they did more than a quarter of a century ago, when the classic New York of the early-to-mid 20th century, an environment conducive to Israel's own earlier success, had mostly faded out. Julius, the bar where a few key scenes are set, existed then and still exists now. (A conversation therein about her illegal shenanigans is softly underscored by Marlene Dietrich's recording of "Illusions," Dietrich being the subject of one of Israel's Noel Coward forgeries.)

Most of the interiors (book stores, archives, Israel's funky apartment, her agent's more elegant and expansive one) are genuine.

McCarthy is strongly supported by Richard E. Grant in a showy, colorful performance as a fellow alcoholic and partner in crime, Stephen Spinella as a kind but increasingly suspicious rare book dealer, Brandon Scott Jones as a fussy book store clerk who, to his regret, rubs Israel the wrong way, Jane Curtin as her no-nonsense literary agent, Anna Deveare Smith as an old friend and numerous others.

"Can You Ever Forgive Me?", based on and named after Israel's slender autobiographical recap of this period, is a highly intelligent and detailed rendering of a complex human being, by turns endearing and repulsive, brilliant and stupid.


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