I don’t go to the movies that much. Hardly ever, really. I’ll eventually see a movie on cable or DVD, but that means I’m always a year behind everyone else when it comes to seeing the movies that everyone is talking about. I did recently see The Shape of Water, and I still believe it’s the best mute-cleaning-woman-has-sex-with-the-Creature-From-The-Black-Lagoon movie ever made.
The Oscars are tomorrow night and I was looking at the list of the Best Picture nominees and I’ve seen…well, none of them. (I’m sure Roma is really good!) For some reason I started to feel bad about not seeing all of these films that so many talented people put so much work into, but then I realized that they probably haven’t read any of the stuff I’ve written either.
But I did buy Can You Ever Forgive Me? (up for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay – no Best Picture or Director nom) because it seemed like something I’d enjoy. I’ve already watched it twice. It hooked me from the start by using Jeri Southern’s “I Thought of You Last Night” as Melissa McCarthy goes home after being fired from a late-night editing job. A film about the life of a writer that features typewriters and Dorothy Parker and classic standards on the soundtrack? It’s like the makers of the film looked into my brain to see what kind of movie I’d like to see and decided to make it.
If you’re not familiar with the film, it’s the true story of Lee Israel, a once successful writer of biographies and magazine features who found herself unsuccessful after a big book flops (her personality didn’t help matters). She’s so poor she can’t pay her rent and doesn’t even have enough money to get her sick cat the medication it needs.
There’s a scene where McCarthy is so broke she has to sell books to a used book dealer, who of course doesn’t want most of them. I remember being in that position many times (right around the time Lee Israel was, actually) and the scene is so, so painful. Look, just give me anything for them, I don’t want to have to carry them all the way home.
In 1991 she decides to forge letters from famous people and sell them to collectors, who are more than happy to buy them without really questioning if they’re authentic or not. And the letters are really some of the best writing she ever did.
McCarthy is just fantastic in the role. She’s not exactly a likable person, but McCarthy somehow makes you feel for her. She doesn’t overdo it, and there aren’t any “hey, look at me I’m being dramatic now” moments you sometimes see with actors known for their comedy. She does these subtle things with her eyes and mouth that are so effective and powerful. There’s a scene near the end of the film where she has to make a statement in court that almost had me in tears.
So I haven’t seen The Favourite or Black Panther or A Star is Born or Green Book, but it doesn’t matter. I loved Can You Ever Forgive Me? and I think it should win all the awards. All of them. Just give it all the awards.