I was interested in seeing Melissa McCarthy’s performance, and she didn’t disappoint.
I saw this yesterday, and the movie is a very interesting look at Lee Israel, a writer who had success writing biographies through a period of 3 decades, but found her work, and herself, on the decline in the 90s. She isn’t a people person at all, so she has trouble keeping jobs, in turn making herself behind on rent and other bills. Her publisher can’t get her an advance, so to make money she gets the idea to forge letters from prominent deceased writers, in order to sell them to various dealers at local bookstores. That’s where the story really grabbed me. I didn’t have any knowledge of Lee or her work prior to seeing this, but I wanted to see Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Lee. Normally, McCarthy stars in comedies, and this movie is not that at all. There are some funny moments, but most of the humor is dark. McCarthy did a good job in her performance. She doesn’t make Lee like able, but at the same time you feel sorry for her. I thought her forgery situations were pretty bold, and I found myself enjoying the scenes that showed what she put into forging. It was a trip. I also liked the supporting performance of Richard Grant, who plays Jack Hock, Lee’s friend. Their banter and quips were quite humorous. I didn’t find out too much information about Hock’s real life, but I did find out that he and Lee were friends longer than what the movie presented. Lee even used Hock to sell some of the forgeries when people started becoming suspicious of her work. When the FBI got involved, the situation turned bad for Lee (maybe not so bad though). Even so, she managed to fool a lot of people, including authenticators, and made a substantial amount of cash before she ended up getting caught. Lee passed away 4 years ago, but I found out that some of her forgeries are still being sold. Israel published her memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me?, in 2008, and it outlined all her forging activities, written in a bragging tone. Various people went on the record to say that they thought her memoir was quite comical. Lee expressed that she didn’t feel bad for what she did, and her forgeries were some of her best work. I liked how McCarthy presented that on screen. That was a really good scene. There were some facts about her memoir and her other exploits presented during the credits that made me chuckle. I won’t be surprised if McCarthy gets an Oscar nomination for her performance. I do recommend seeing this film. The performances are good and the story flows. I liked seeing 90s style New York City. I spent quite a few summers up there as a kid, so seeing products of the 90s was a nice bit of nostalgia. One problem…..The movie is limited release, so unless you have a theater that shows indie films, or you live in/close to a big city, you won’t find this playing wide at the big time chains. Based on the limited showings and small box office performance, it may not stay in theaters that long anyway, so there’s always Redbox. If you’re a fan of McCarthy, you may enjoy this one.