TIFF 2018 Review: CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? (USA 2018) ***1/2

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? Poster
Trailer

When Lee Israel falls out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception. An adaptation of the memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the true story of best-selling celebrity biographer Lee Israel.

Director:

Marielle Heller

Writers:

Nicole Holofcener (screenplay by), Jeff Whitty (screenplay by)

 

It takes courage to make for comedian Melissa McCarthy to lose all that weight and to star in a serious role of a convicted felon as well as to bring to the screen the story of a protagonist that is annoying and not one many can root for.  

Accolades for the effort.  Based on the book/biography of the same name, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? tells the story of failed writer Lee Israel who did at one time make it on the New York Times Best 10  bestseller list but now, down spiralled to drinking and being exceptionally rude to everyone.  She is a petty thief as well.  Then she learns something she is really good at, forging literary letters and selling them to collectors.  She befriends a gay Brit (Richard E. Grant) who does not help her esteem either. 

Heller’s first third of the film shows Lee as a dislikable person, despite offering some break in her jokes and insults.  Heller and McCarthy achieves their difficult task of getting the audience to slowly become sympathetic (if not root) for the character after that.  

But the film is a biography and a study character of the forger Lee Israel and in that sense, the film succeeds tremendously.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvJIaNsf_bY

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1987 Movie Review: WITHNAIL AND I, 1987

WITHNAIL AND I,  MOVIE POSTERWITHNAIL AND I, 1987
Movie Reviews

Directed By Bruce Robinson

Starring Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths, Ralph Brown
Review by Christopher Upton

SYNOPSIS:

Two unemployed actors tire of their impoverished surroundings in London and head off to a cottage in the countryside for a weekend of heavy drinking, drug abuse and fresh air. However uninhabitable conditions and a home invading uncle with deviant intentions quickly destroy their plans. Based on the life of the director Bruce Robinson.

REVIEW:

The art world is full of people completely convinced the only reason they aren’t famous is because of some horrifying conspiracy, Withnail is such a person. Bruce Robinson based the character on someone he shared a house with in the Sixties, and the film is a mostly autobiographical account of their time together. Withnail was notable for being the first acting job for Richard E. Grant, who captured the drunken spirit of the titular character impressively considering he is a teetotaller.

Trapped in the squalor of his London flat with his long suffering flatmate, the thespian in Withnail itches to get out as it struggles against his alcohol dependency and his, unfortunately all too obvious, lack of talent. Living from week to week, surviving on benefit, the two actors feel the weight of busy London crushing down on them.

The two of them decide on a break and convince Withnail’s equally deluded actor of an uncle to lend them his cottage, a chance to reacquaint themselves with nature in order to rejuvenate and come back fully charged and better than ever. The problem is that what they mainly reacquaint themselves with is pills and enormous amounts of alcohol. In a sense it has a slapstick feel to it, the two of them trying to gather fuel, barter with a local farmer and fend off a bull are sort of a re-imagining of Laurel & Hardy- if they’d had access to a selection of fine wines and a courser grasp of the English language.

Then Uncle Monty turns up and the weekend takes on a much more threatening tone for Paul McGann’s Marwood (though he is never referred to by name in the film, he’s just ‘I’) who has managed to snare the affections of the rotund ex-thespian, much to his horror. The rest of the time at the cottage is spent desperately avoiding flimsily disguised advances and, at the extreme end, avoiding a buggering. Try as they might, they never managed to tackle that storyline in those old silent shorts. Richard Griffiths manages to inject a feeling of deviant menace into every flirting gesture or comment he makes to Marwood, every word is so lascivious and over acted; also a great reference to why the character of Monty never captured his much desired fame.

Over the course of the weekend the two friends start to pull further and further apart, possibly because of Withnail offering up Marwood in exchange for the cottage, and what starts off as a vacation quickly becomes a goodbye note to their friendship. There’s a definite sadness in the way that Withnail is outgrown. You can tell that director, Bruce Robinson, had a real affection for his friend and Paul McGann manages to convey both frustration and adulation towards Withnail effectively.

Clearly, both characters have a similar problem and their chemical dependencies are more than likely what is holding them back. The thing that separates them, and what allows Marwood to move on, is his recognition of his situation. Withnail is stuck within a trap he created and is far too ingrained now to escape. The character is trapped as the world moves on around him, a sign of the times for many towards the end of the decade.

 

WITHNAIL AND I, 1987

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Happy Birthday: Richard E. Grant

richardegrant.jpgHappy Birthday actor Richard E. Grant

Born: Richard Grant Esterhuysen
May 5, 1957 in Mbabane, Swaziland

Married to:
Joan Washington (1 November 1986 – present) (2 children)

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

THE NAKED GUN 2 1/2WITHNAIL AND I
1987
dir. Bruce Robinson
Starring
Richard E. Grant
Paul McGann

BRIGHT YOUNG THINGSBright Young Things
2003
dir. Stephen Fry
Cast
Simon McBurney
Michael Sheen

nudeGIRLS Season 3
2014
Starring:
Lena Dunham
Adam Driver

GOSFORD PARKGosford Park
2001
dir. Altman
Starring
Helen Mirren
Kristen Scott Thomas

MOVIE POSTERDOM HEMINGWAY
2014
dir. Richard Shepard
Stars:
Emilia Clarke
Jude Law