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Certificate 15.  Running time: 1hr 46mins.  Biography, Comedy, Crime. Doors open at 7pm

“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.

With bills mounting, and facing loss of prestige and income, author Lee Israel discovers 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.

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

A 15 certificate means… “Suitable only for 15 years and over. No one younger than 15 may see a 15 film in a cinema” – British Board of Film Classification

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