Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a story rooted in the truth of the life of writer Lee Israel. The movie is carried by Melissa McCarthy as Israel and Richard E. Grant as her accomplice, Jack Hook. I need to say up front that this one is drawing excellent reviews and appreciative audiences while adding that I found it very troubling. Here goes with my take on this movie.

At the opening in 1991, Lee Israel lives on 86th Street in Manhattan in a small apartment that she has no interest in enjoying. In every way, it’s a foul mess and she doesn’t care. She loves her cat and her work but she is in an emotional cave-in right now because her comical written improvements on the work of celebrity authors have become dated. She has known fine success in extending the writings of Tallulah Bankhead, Dorothy Kilgallen, Dorothy Parker, Noel Coward, and other literary beacons of their day. But by 1991, few in the public are interested in Israel’s articles about past celebrities. She is broke and discouraged.

And then – she takes to stealing original celebrity letters from libraries and bookstores and laces them with her own sense of humor and sharp writing. The next step in her plan: she sells the improved originals for increasing amounts of money. Jack, her homeless accomplice, develops even more sophisticated ways for her to sell the fake originals, moves into her apartment, and together they sell their forgeries of famous people. They get drunk regularly and plan further thefts. Their new business is growing.

My involuntary reaction was disgust. Is there any crime uglier than stealing the words of famous dead authors, adding your own cleverness to their work, and then selling it for publication – especially if it’s a true story? This story is rooted entirely in theft, fraud, and plagiarism and we are supposed to admire Israel’s formidable talent in navigating that ugly world. Surely in this non-fiction tale, a writer with her talent could have found a way to support herself other than heavy drinking with a thoroughly grim fellow loser as they plan attacks on dead authors.

But this movie is drawing appreciative crowds. If you find Melissa McCarthy and Jack E. Grant charming and funny, if you laugh through a movie that is the story of people who have no moral compass, then just dismiss my thoughts. It’s that simple.

If you think that you will enjoy watching Israel’s cleverness in an upbeat ending that lasts for just a few minutes, then go. With this character, Writer Nicole Holofcener and director Marielle Heller have taken women from their relatively new roles as intelligent ornaments, as opposed to boring ornaments, into the comically flawed roles usually reserved for men. Perhaps that’s progress. While I stewed in annoyance at two alcoholic plagiarists, Melissa McCarthy has invented a comically flawed heroine who has carried the movie and herself to Oscar nominations.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Word Count : 496
Running Time : 1:46
Rating : R
Date : November 11, 2018

 

Beautiful Boy

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Beautiful Boy

Beautiful Boy earns an adjective that is rare and not always welcome: Important. How many people will go to this movie that is about drugs from beginning to end? For some, the answer to that is some version of “why would I want to see a movie about drugs? For others, it offers an extraordinary lifeline.

The why of that has deep and confusing roots. Our world was changed overnight by the sudden arrival of computers. For a few years we celebrated the fact that a deep research tool had been brought into our homes, that communications among family and friends had become instant. Then, gradually, as they always do, opportunists invaded and infected the extraordinary new medium with negatives – the exchange of information, the location, and availability of drugs is now immediate and nationwide.

Add to that the grim truth that some previously decent drug companies began handing their unproven drugs free to doctors who prescribed them for patients before the harmful effects were known. Doctors then reported the results, positive and negative, back to the drug companies that had given them the unproven samples. Many in our citizenry became addicted to the powerful drugs without ever knowing they had been part of an experiment. Drug companies got free research; Doctors got free drugs for sick patients.

Eighteen year old Nic Steff (Timothy Chalamet) is the beautiful boy here, so labelled by his adoring father David (Steve Carell). David is married to his second wife (Maura Tierney) and reaches out to his first (Amy Ryan) for help with their now drug addicted son. Nic is a good guy who works his way through various stages of drug addiction until he is caught completely by crystal-meth. Timothy Chalamet does a beautiful job of showing us the savage capture of the boy by the drug.

The movie becomes the story of an endangered boy who loves his father deeply and is loved in return. This is not an angry boy running off and indulging himself. It is the far worse tale of a son who worked his way through that first phase to being caught entirely and violently by one of the most dangerous drugs of all.

The sad tale is acted so well by Timothy Chalamet and Steve Carell that it becomes a lesson for anyone in the audience who might be suffering a drug problem in his/her family. They lead us through Nic’s addiction process from alcohol to pot to cocaine to LSD to the crippling crystal-meth.

Writer/director Felix Van Groeningen injects just enough happy memories of past father/son fun – surfing, hiking, laughing – to make us realize deeply that Nic was captured by the drug rather than by seeking it out as an escape. For anyone caught in the search for solution, this is a powerful trip through the newly available avenues to rescue. As the leading cause of death under 50, there is help for those who reach for it.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Beautiful Boy
Word Count : 500
Running Time : 2:00
Rating : R
Date : November 4, 2018