Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Jane Curtin, Anna Deavere Smith, Dolly Wells, Jennifer Westfeldt, Julie Ann Emery, Shae D’Lyn, Michael Cyril Creighton
OUR RATING: ★★★½
Bio-comedy drama directed by Marielle Heller in which the story follows celebrity biographer (and friend to cats) Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), who made her living in the 1970’s and 80’s profiling the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estee Lauder and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. When Lee is no longer able to get published because she has fallen out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception, abetted by her loyal friend Jack (Richard E. Grant).
Israel begins selling letters that she has forged that appear to have been written by deceased writers, playwrights and actors. When a letter that Israel says was written by Noel Coward raises suspicion, people stop buying letters from her. She and Jack begin stealing actual letters from library archives and selling them.
Best Quotes (Total Quotes: 27)
Lee Israel: Jack Hock, you said, huh?
Jack Hock: That’s me. The renegade, the rebel. Jack Hock, big cock.
Lee Israel: I’m sure it’ll come back to me. How’s old life been treating you?
Jack Hock: I can honestly boast that I’m banned from Crosby Street Booksellers. I’m banned from Duane Reade. All of them. I have a little shoplifting problem. Well, it’s all in the past, but, uh, but for some reason, I have a very memorable mug. And now I have to take a bus just to buy shampoo and aspirin and stuff. I’m joking. Duane Reade’s not the only rodeo in town.
[referring to the books]
Bookstore Employee: Just these, I don’t want the others.
Lee Israel: Come on, man. I schlepped these all the way here.
Bookstore Employee: There’s people waiting.
Lee Israel: You know, you don’t have to be so disrespectful. You have actually carried my books here.
Bookstore Employee: And you are?
Lee Israel: Lee Israel.
Bookstore Employee: Oh, we have copies of your latest work right over there.
[Lee turns and sees her book on display with a massive 75% discount sign on it]
Lee Israel: Oh, God. Give me a fucking break, please.
Marjorie: Well, clearly that’s not going to happen. Or you can take the time to go out and make a name for yourself. And then maybe, maybe, I can get you paid for your work again.
Lee Israel: And how is it that I’m supposed to do that, Marjorie? I’m a fifty-one year-old woman who likes cats better than people. Not exactly hot and sexy, as you like to say.
Marjorie: Write your book in your own voice. Well, you’ve been threatening to do it for ten years.
Lee Israel: I’d love to, Marjorie. Except that I have bills to pay, and not everybody has an ex-husband who left them a Classic Six on the Park!
Marjorie: You can be an asshole when you’re famous, but as an unknown, you can’t be such a bitch, Lee. Nobody is going to pay for the writer Lee Israel right now. My suggestion to you is you go out there and you find another way to make a living.
Lee Israel: I’m months behind in my rent and my cat is sick.
Jack Hock: It’s four in the afternoon and you’re drunk!
Lee Israel: I’m hardly drunk.
[to the barman]
Jack Hock: Craigy, top her up.
[after forging a letter to sell at a bookstore]
Lee Israel: I’ve recently found this delightful signed letter.
Book Dealer #1: Fanny Brice, one of my favorites. I could give you seventy-five.
Lee Israel: Oh.
Book Dealer #1: I could give more for better content. It’s a bit bland is all.
[Lee goes back to the same dealer after forging another letter with more content in it]
Book Dealer #1: Yeah, I can get a lot more with this one. I mean the “P.S.” makes it priceless.
Lee Israel: I have figured out a way to pay my bills without shoveling shit, and it is a good feeling.
Jack Hock: Well, chin-chin. You going to tell me how?
Lee Israel: No. You’d be too scandalized.
Jack Hock: Oh, my! You clearly don’t know me very well.
Lee Israel: Some things are just better kept to oneself, even if they are brilliant.
Jack Hock: Come on. Spill the beans.
Lee Israel: Can you keep a secret?
Jack Hock: I have no one to tell. All my friends are dead.
Lee Israel: Quite by accident, I find myself in a rather criminal position.
Jack Hock: I can’t fathom what criminal activity you could possibly involve in, except a crime of fashion, of course.
Lee Israel: I’m embellishing documents, if you will.
Jack Hock: Are you forging checks?
Lee Israel: No. Literary letters by prominent writers.
Jack Hock: Not checks, not money, just letters?
Lee Israel: You’re not understanding the world of elite collectible, literary artifacts.
Jack Hock: I suppose not. But how thrilling to be forging pieces of paper that go where? Libraries?
Lee Israel: No, I am selling to collectors.
[referring to the forged letter]
Jack Hock: How much are you getting for them?
Lee Israel: I don’t know why I told you. It’s a waste of a secret. I should have gone out there and gotten a rock and told the rock, because I’d get a better response.
Jack Hock: Who else have you told about this?
Lee Israel: You’re not the only one without friends.
Lounge Singer: This next song goes out to all the agoraphobic junkies who couldn’t be here tonight.
[referring to one of Lee’s forged letters]
Book Dealer #1: I love his writing.
Lee Israel: Particularly clever, don’t you think?
Book Dealer #1: A caustic wit.
Lee Israel: Caustic wit is my religion.
Book Dealer #2: This is quite something. These are wonderful.
Lee Israel: I thought so too.
Book Dealer #2: Name your price.
[to Jack; referring to one of her forged letters]
Lee Israel: You are looking at one month’s rent.
Jack Hock: [to Lee] What are we going to do? Gamble? Shop? Drink?
[listening to Lee’s answering machine]
Book Dealer #2: Miss Israel, I have a couple of questions regarding the Latin letter I purchased
Jack Hock: Oh, God.
Lee Israel: What seems to be the problem?
Book Dealer #2: People are on alert. Your name’s been put on the list.
Lee Israel: A list?
Lee Israel: They’re literary treasures, one of a kind! It’s my writing!
Jack Hock: You’re impersonating other people. Nobody’s buying Lee Israel letters.
Book Dealer #1: There have been some forgeries going around.
Jack Hock: Do you think it’s real?
Book Dealer #1: Look’s that way.
Jack Hock: Good.
Lee Israel: You’re stealing from me?
Jack Hock: Come on.
Lee Israel: [to Jack] Get out of my house!
Lee Israel: I was supposed to be something more than this.
Lawyer: We’re probably looking at some time in behind bars.
Lee Israel: What?
Lee Israel: I can’t say that I regret any of my actions. In many ways this has been the best time of my life.
Lee Israel: How have you gotten by as long as you have?
Jack Hock: Do not underestimate sparkly blue eyes and a little bit of street smarts. They go a long way in this city. Although I may have stretched my limits recently.
Lee Israel: Yeah, but who did you want to be? I mean, what was the actual plan?
Jack Hock: I honestly don’t know what to say. I imagined I’d figure it out as I went along, and for the most part, I have. I certainly have no regrets.
Lee Israel: That can’t be true.
Jack Hock: Oh. You mean, why don’t I have some brilliant talent for copying like you do?
Lee Israel: Is that what you think I’m doing? You think I’m copying?
Jack Hock: Mm-hmm.
Lee Israel: I’ll have you know, I’m a better Dorothy Parker than Dorothy Parker.
Jack Hock: Oh, I’ll drink to that.
Jack Hock: You’re a horrid cu*t, Lee.
Lee Israel: You too, Jack.
Total Quotes: 27
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