POP CULTURE: Movie Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

To answer the movie’s central question: yes, I can forgive Lee Israel (played by a staggeringly powerful Melissa McCarthy). The question is, am I forgiving McCarthy’s Israel or the real Israel? The answer to that question is kind of a mixed bag that takes me a little longer than a sentence to answer. Since I’ve been a little lax on blog posts for this blog and my parents and I actually went to a theater to see this movie, I present to you a good old fashioned movie review (Watching Pop Culture With My Parents style, of course).

A little preface before I start. I’m a big movie geek. 🎥 🤓 I just love them. And when my parents would come visit me (before the accident, before we lived together again) we would go see movies together frequently. I’m the person that usually knows a lot of facts and tidbits about movies and the people who make them. I used to sit in between my parents and tell them those things during the movie. Yup. Not great. We actually got told to be quiet once. (And I’m a trained librarian. Aren’t we the ones supposed to be doing the shushing?) I’m surprised it was only once that it happened to us. Especially since my parents can’t hear very well and basically stopped being able to whisper. And now that my hearing is greatly compromised I tell them my factoids before and after the movie! (I should have always done it that way!)

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a new movie starring Melissa McCarthy. And I feel like since she became well known for the comedic film Bridesmaids (2011) that I have to preface that this movie is serious, a drama even, and doesn’t require McCarthy to be comedic in the traditional sense. It’s a biopic of biographer Lee Israel who was found guilty of forging letters from notable figures. The film is an adaptation of Israel’s autobiography where she writes about the crime. I didn’t know anything about Lee Israel before I saw this movie (other than reading an article about the movie itself). I wanted to see the movie because McCarthy is getting praised for her performance. And she should be getting praised. She’s on the screen every minute (nearly) and holds the movie together by being like-ably unlike-able.

Evaluating McCarthy’s performance brings me back to that central question: Can You Ever Forgive Me [Lee Israel]? I think my earlier assertion holds true, that you give the character forgiveness because of who is portraying her (not to get too caught up on the title). I think Lee Israel is really fascinating and I would like to read her autobiography. However, I’m not sure I would’ve really liked Israel if I had come across her without this movie. She wasn’t exactly apologetic about her crimes. The movie kind of helps you get over that because she’s really approaching it like her other writing (and you kind of see why). And she gets away with it because she’s a good writer, as you see in the movie. I think the movie itself is well constructed and supports McCarthy’s performance. I think this movie is definitely worth checking out, and I would recommend it. My parents also enjoyed it, so it gets the Watching Pop Culture With My Parents seal of approval.

This was only the second movie I’ve seen in the theater since my accident. Watching movies at home has gotten so easy and convenient. And now that I have to make sure theaters have closed captioned devices, it’s just easier watching things on cable, Netflix (thankfully captioned), or Amazon Prime Video (also captioned). Even though most theaters in my area have captioning devices, it’s still a lot of exertion physically going to something. My first experience with the caption devices at the movie theater was fine. This time wasn’t the best. It could’ve been the worker helping. It was set up poorly, and then it was running out of batteries the whole movie (it flashed a warning the whole time). And then I noticed there were giant gaps in dialog. It only put about 80% of the movie in captions when it should be 100%. So I lip read what I could. However, lip reading a filmed thing can be challenging because there are lots of edits and cut aways where sound is happening that isn’t being shown onscreen. I’m still going to keep trying to go to movies. I just might prefer watching at home a little more than I did before.

A few notes to my future moviegoing self:

1. Try to get to your seats early because there’s a certain amount of setup with the caption device and so far I haven’t had good luck. (And Mom and Dad are slow so allow extra extra time.)

2. Don’t let Mom and Dad have you sit in between them. Because they always share popcorn that you don’t eat. So what usually happens is Dad gets the whole popcorn container and chows down on it (the man loves 🍿). They should sit by each other so they can share!

3. Be sure to share your factoids before (the ones you know) the movie. That worked well this time. Additional factoids you notice during the movie can be told afterwards.

To sum up: I’m definitely rooting for McCarthy to get an Oscar nomination. Way to go Sookie (her character from Gilmore Girls)!

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