Mary Cybulski / Twentieth Century Fox
You know about A star has been born, straight? An enormously famous and successful celebrity vanishes; One gets up But here's a question: What percentage of creative people will become any of those? What percentage will experience a large increase or a large fall? How many will simply work, often undervalued and insulted, sometimes praised, for a moment, before being pushed aside? What about the invisibility that follows even fleeting encounters with modest success?
If you ask these questions about writers instead of musicians, you will find an answer in the new movie. Can you forgive me?, directed by Marielle Heller (The diary of a teenager) and written by Jeff Whitty and Nicole Holofcener. Melissa McCarthy plays Lee Israel, a (real) author who experienced a brutal career stalled in the late eighties. And the film, based on the joyful memories of Israel, tells the story of how she became desperate and frustrated enough, that she began to falsify and sell letters that, according to her, were written by Louise Brooks, Noel Coward, Dorothy Parker and others.
For the most part, this is a well-honed comedy that openly admires Israel's intelligence and ingenuity and enjoys the ingenuity of its many ancient typewriters and its search for the perfect role. It focuses on the period in which he sold his letters to private traders, which is the part he makes clear in his memoirs about which he does not feel so bad. (She shows, in the book, more discomfort with the later phase in which she began to steal real letters from university libraries and replaced them with fakes in order to sell the originals, among other things, the creative element was absent).
But there is also a deep sadness for the way in which the literary world turns its back on Lee Israel, losing all interest in the work he wants to do and getting tired of his reckless personality, which, as he observes, may not be a problem. . If she were a man Her agent, perfectly interpreted by Jane Curtin, says that success alone gives authors the right to be imbeciles, and Lee has not been successful enough for that. But why, Israel asks, does the world have a relentless appetite for Tom Clancy, whose work she describes in … unflattering terms?
There is also a loneliness that comes with the status of Israel as an older queer woman in a New York city where she can go to gay bars and can date women (she misses an ex play beautifully, albeit briefly, by Anna Deavere Smith ), but she does not feel embraced, exactly. As with his career, he seems to feel too insignificant to be rejected; she is simply hibernating.
Lee's closest confidant in the movie, and eventually his partner in the crime, is his friend Jack (Richard E. Grant), who is roaming a city that does not seem to have a place for him, and where he is from. from time to time beaten or mistreated by the young people he brings home. He also feels lonely, and Lee's adventures at least give him something fun to do.
In fact, the crime wave, as it is, gives the two some version of useful work, as well as anything else. Israel may be forging, but at least at the beginning, she is also writing. In fact, he says in his memoirs that he considers that the letters he wrote as a counterfeiter are his best work. He was combining research and real facts with total invention, using a combination of his creative abilities and his biographer skills to help a reader understand who a person really was. This does not mean that he was honest, but at least at first, Israel was taking advantage mainly of the wealthy collectors with the somewhat unseemly hobby of buying the private papers of other people they should never have seen. The crimes against the universities obviously have a different scope, but the film seems to consider collectors and merchants little better, a little more moral, than Israel itself.
McCarthy has often shown herself in roles that are very happy women to which she imbues with comical consternation or very strange ducks that she interprets with pleasure and without vanity. Israel is different; she is quite ordinary. McCarthy is well adapted to the character without mercy of the character (a quality evident in the memories of Israel), but also to her isolation. You see many characters driven by rage and self-pity, often to the point of violence or evil. Israel is driven by the feeling that the world should not treat it this way because it should not treat it. no one In this way, as if they were invisible, forgotten, unimportant.
There are likely to be those (literary historians and archivists, to name two constituencies) who may be appalled by the movie's liking to Lee Israel. But a surprising number of attractive details, a TV used as a light box to track, a joke played in an unpleasant book seller, is taken directly from Israel's own memories. She comes as very endearing. You know, assuming that everything is true.