"Washed-Up Author Turns Her Talent to Crime"
In CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?, biographer Lee Israel hasn’t had a bestseller for years, and her agent has all but given up on her. After getting fired at her most recent writing job, Lee’s left with no money, no way to pay her rent, and a sick cat who can’t be treated due to being behind on its vet bills. Lee even resorts to stealing toilet paper and a nice coat at a party. Her latest book is about an obscure vaudeville star, which her agent criticizes as being unsellable on the current market. Short of finding a regular job, she tries taking a small book collection to a used bookstore, but only gets a couple dollars.
Nursing her sorrows over a drink at a bar, in walks Jack Hock, another unsuccessful author who met Lee briefly at a party years before. His charismatic personality slowly wins Lee over, and the two hit it off, becoming fast friends. They provide much-needed companionship for each other while playing practical jokes on people, drowning their sorrows in alcohol, and lamenting the toils of homosexual relationships. While Lee broke up with her girlfriend a while ago and lives a life of seclusion, Jack is rather promiscuous, and is always looking for his next encounter.
While doing research for her new biography, Lee comes across a personal letter form the vaudeville star that had been tucked in the back of a library book. She takes it and sells it, making enough money to take her cat to the vet. It gives her the idea of selling more letters for easy money, so she resorts to forging dozens of letters by famous authors and selling them to multiple dealers. Lee adds her own creative touches to the text, making them more valuable. However, one dealer becomes suspicious when a close friend of one of the authors gets hold of a forged letter and claims the author would never have written certain parts of it. On the brink of getting caught, Lee sends Jack in her place to continue selling the letters until he’s intercepted by the FBI.
Based on a true story, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? actually has an intriguing plot, but it’s as much about the internal struggles of Lee as it is about the criminal act itself. Her struggles come from being a lesbian in the 1990s, lack of stability in a relationship, living alone, and not being able to write interesting material anymore. Furthermore, her cat is sick, which stands out immediately from the start and it’s overtly predicable that the feline will not make to the end of the movie alive. The movie could have included more about the letter forging as it makes it seem that Lee did way less than what she did in reality. The most suspenseful and captivating moments revolve around this storyline, and it’s a fascinating subject to watch, which is why it’s a little disappointing that it’s not given more time and depth.
As a result of Lee and Jack’s depressive states, there’s a lot of drinking, a lot of swearing, some stealing, and lifestyle choices that reflect hopelessness of sorts. The homosexual and progressive agenda are pushed heavily, and the fact it’s set in the 1990s only adds to the victimhood of the characters. Anti-conservative rhetoric is paired with feminist ideology in one scene in particular. Just so it’s clear the movie takes place in the 90s, Jack is shown somewhat emaciated by the AIDS virus after casually messing around with other men. While Lee is ultimately held accountable for her crimes, her courtroom statement suggests she’s not necessarily remorseful except for getting caught. That said, she does eventually clean up her act and it’s implied her life of crime is behind her.
Despite these light moral elements, the movie has a very strong Romantic, politically correct worldview overall. The movie’s politically correct, left-wing sentiments are part of Lee Israel’s personal story, but the filmmakers behind CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? rub the viewer’s face in such false, abhorrent political attitudes.
In CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?, biographer Lee Israel hasn’t had a bestseller for years. After getting fired, Lee’s left with no money, no way to pay her rent, and a sick cat who can’t be treated due to being behind on vet bills. By chance she runs into Jack Hock, another unsuccessful author who she briefly met at a party a few years ago. They strike up a quick friendship, strengthened by their mutual profession and homosexual lifestyle. After Lee forges a letter by a vaudeville star to sell it, she and Jack team up to continue the scam. It’s not long, however, before the FBI is on their trail.
Based on a true story, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? actually has an intriguing plot, but it’s as much about Lee’s internal struggles as it is about her criminal activity. As a result, there’s a lot of drinking, a lot of swearing, some stealing, and lifestyle choices reflecting her depressed, troubled state. Sadly, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? promotes a strong politically correct, homosexual viewpoint and contains some drug use.