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.

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