Our vote is perhaps suspect given a window of ten years — and the selected film dating allll the way back to 2018. Nevertheless, I just love this movie, and don’t feel enough has been made of it. It holds up well at second viewing (I just did that) and recommend it as such.
In a second round with Can You Ever Forgive Me, the pronounced, chortle-inducing jokes ebb, which gives space for considerable nuance to emerge. The film concerns a pair of social losers, two”B-minus” New Yorkers of the 1990s. In that grimy, but so-real, environment (a people-tester) this random couple operates. The woman (Melissa McCarthy) is a published author whose ‘challenging’ personality and lack of desire to play the game hampers her ascent on the publishing-world ladder. She’s the engine in the relationship … because she has a clever scam going. Her preening platonic friend (Richard E. Grant) is ‘himself’ for a living; he coasts on that up until AIDs trapps him in its spider’s web.
The source of the movie’s somewhat cumbersome title previously passed me. It generates not directly from Dorothy Parker, but one step removed. Lee Israel, the ‘literary letter-forger’ whose memoir inspires the film, wrote those words in a letter in the guise of Parker. She essentially uses Parker as a surrogate for her own conundrum. A title once found awkward, I now find brilliant.
The film’s laudable elements of casting and production design notwithstanding, the secret sauce is in the writing. That’s why our official artsmeme award for Best Motion Picture of “Whatever This Decade Is Called” goes to credited screenwriters Nicole Holofcener and the aptly named Jeff Whitty for their subtle, hilarious and poignant story about a couple of swells (based, of course on Ms. Israel’s book).
Bartender, bring on the ’20s!!!
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) | streaming on HBO