Can You Ever Forgive Me? adapts Lee Israel's 2008 memoir of the same name to offer a biographical portrait that challenges conventional ideas of ‘psychological ‘insight and development. In their place the film offers a celebration of the aesthetic labour of creating and being a fake. Lee Israel's success as a biographer sees her absent herself in favour of the voice of her subjects but this means she is perversely well-placed to begin their impersonation when financial hardship strikes. Melissa McCarthy's galvanising performance as Lee translates the comic gestures of heist and buddy movie into a more subtle meditation on the performative nature of identity, its fakery as well as its attachment to craft and profession. The film is similarly interested in crafting mises-en-scene of detailed period style, evoking the cinematic scene itself as the product of a style of fakery aligned with queer style and sensibility.
Ontology of the Fake: Marielle Heller's Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Melissa Hardie is Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Sydney. Recent publications include articles on Dog Day Afternoon and the closet in Modernism/modernity, and on Rich and Famous and writers block in Novel: A Forum on Fiction. She is writing a book on the closet after queer theory.
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Melissa Hardie; Ontology of the Fake: Marielle Heller's Can You Ever Forgive Me?. Film Quarterly 1 September 2019; 73 (1): 19–25. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2019.73.1.19
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