Can You Ever Forgive Me? reviews

Mister Tee
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Re: Can You Ever Forgive Me? reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Nov 24, 2018 3:20 pm

Back in the mid-70s, I saw a mostly forgotten movie called Law and Disorder -- a slice of life about lower-middle-class project-dwellers struggling to keep afloat, dreaming of improving their situation. I found the film so depressing, it gave me an epiphany: it was easier to watch genuine, big-time tragedy -- as in They Shoot Horses, or MIdnight Cowboy -- than the sad, banal lot of everyday Americans trying to cope with their desperate situations.

I'd been wondering why Can You Ever Forgive Me? had been so under-performing at the box office (relative to its reviews), but now, having seen it, I can understand, as it falls somewhat into this category. It's not exactly in the losers-losing box BJ refers to -- by that, I meant movies where protagonists wait on a big score that inevitably falls through (Toys in the Attic, A Raisin in the Sun) or a horse race/lottery ticket that either doesn't win (A Hole in the Head) or, worse, does win but the ticket's lost (another forgotten movie called Dime with a Halo, and multiple others). The two main characters in Can You Ever Forgive Me? have too much agency -- too many self-destructive traits -- to fall into that inevitability-of-gloom slot; their bordering-on-lunatic actions give the movie enough life that you're not just waiting around for their eventual failure. But, at least for me -- maybe because I have too much experience with negotiating a NY life at times when money's scarce -- there's still a tinge of loser-dom hanging over the film, and it made the part of the film prior to McCarthy's scheme really taking off (which is a longer stretch than I expected) a bit too painful to bear. (Oh, and the film's one truly tragic turn...let's say I anticipated it from about five minutes into the running time, and resented having it wring tears out of me.)

That said, I ended up liking the film, partly because it had a stronger second hour than first, because the unraveling of the scam didn't wreak as much humiliation on the characters as anticipated (the film kind of glides by as almost fait accompli), and because the final 15 minutes of the film are maybe stronger than anything preceding. A solid ending can help a film a lot.

Oh, and one more thing: because Melissa McCarthy gives a terrific, I'd almost say world-class performance. Like BJ, I've watched too many performances over the years from great comic actresses -- Carol Burnett, Whoopi Goldberg -- where their idea of going dramatic has been to scale back everything audiences have ever enjoyed about them...as if not being funny was somehow more genuine. Robin Williams took a different tack, and did deliver some solid dramatic work that incorporated aspects of his comic persona -- in Moscow on the Hudson, The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting. But even there, I always had the sense it was Robin Williams-stand-up taking over/superseding to a degree the character written on paper. With McCarthy here, while I certainly saw traces of her glorious comic self -- in her rant about Tom Clancy, for instance -- mostly, I felt she was showing me a character operating from a completely different center of gravity than that of her usual roles. Very early on, I stopped thinking of her as Melissa McCarthy star, and thought of her as simply an actress embodying the prickly and complex character Lee Israel was. And within that performance she offered some incredibly memorable moments -- none moreso than her climactic declaration to the court, where she's simply unable to get in line with the subservience she has to know would serve her better, but that would make her feel less than herself. I've got lots of other actresses to see this year, but of the awards-touted work I've seen so far -- Close, Colette, Gaga -- McCarthy is far and away the most impressive.

Richard E. Grant is quite good, as well, but more in the way you'd expect: it's very much in his wheelhouse. (And, true to life or not, his situation in the final scene feels like it's laying on the misery a bit thick.)

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Re: Can You Ever Forgive Me? reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Oct 14, 2018 8:07 pm

A thoroughly enjoyable movie, even if its pleasures are on the small side. I remember Mister Tee used to say that he long ago got tired of watching films about losers losing -- this definitely is a movie about losers losing, but I'd say the level of wit and humor here make this one far less dreary than the kind of efforts he'd typically cite under that classification. I liked the way scenes of genuine sadness were cut through with laugh-out-loud humor, and the director, writers, and cast all do a strong job balancing the melancholy tone with plenty of cleverness along the way.

The heart of the film is the relationship between Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant's characters, and both actors are completely winning. Grant is an actor who has enlivened many a film over the years, but it's been quite a while since he's had a role this scene-stealingly delightful. And McCarthy is funny in utterly fresh ways -- clearly the role is well outside the typical broad comedy wheelhouse she's established for herself over recent years, but she doesn't dull herself down, the way many comedians do when tackling more dramatic material. Instead, she uses her obvious skill at delivering a one-liner to add unexpected humor to many scenes, while at the same time nailing her character's pathetic, anti-social tendencies that have caused so much self-inflicted sadness in her own life. I like both actors' chances for nominations, and really have a hard time seeing the writers pass on the screenplay (for a film focused on a struggling writer, about writing, and written by someone -- Nicole Holofcener -- who I'd imagine many would be happy to reward with a first nomination.)

I will say, however, that this is the kind of film that I wish I could have seen cold, without having viewed a trailer first, because there's a degree to which the premise basically gives away the whole movie. By the time Lee Israel starts making a decent profit off her forgeries, we're pretty far into the story, and of course we know she eventually gets caught (because otherwise how would there be a movie about it), and the way that happened wasn't necessarily all that interesting. I think the filmmakers and cast find a lot of humor and poignancy along the way -- I don't think there could have been a much BETTER movie version of this story -- but it is still a fairly minor story.

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Re: Can You Ever Forgive Me? reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Sep 11, 2018 11:15 am

“Those Koreans. They’re so suspicious, you know, ever since Hiroshima.” Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) from American Horror Story: Season One

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Re: Can You Ever Forgive Me? reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 02, 2018 3:47 pm

Variety added.

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Can You Ever Forgive Me? reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 01, 2018 10:01 pm

Seems to be winning critics over at Telluride, albeit on a low-key level.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/revie ... ew-1139236

https://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/c ... 202924611/


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