Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2019)

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Forgery has never looked so gently compelling but ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ is out and about in New York to show how unexpectedly sweet and deliciously sour it can all be.

Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) has a NY Times Best Seller book under her belt but has fallen under writers block and other self-made hard times. Whilst trying to compile notes for a new novel she unearths letters sent by the person she wants to write about. This sets in motion a plan to spin money by forging letters from other writers and along with Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), Israel gets into her groove once more.

The film is lovingly layered with spot on wit, never over-laden to breaking point, the screenplay has a fair few amounts of razor sharp insults and sniping but it’s still a film that is generally a pleasant watch, like the director has managed to settle her audience in to this calming, jazzy ambience of comedy and drama. It’s like you’re watching this talented yet hard to reach writer figure of Israel, not from a cinema but on a plush armchair with atmospheric lighting setting the mood in comfortable surroundings.

It is also true that it can feel like a biographical picture more like a lazy Sunday afternoon watch because it never changes gears and it takes a bit of time to warm to the aggressive nature of Lee as a person but once she begins her typewriter hustling and forms a bond with flamboyant Jack, the movie becomes a much more investing product.

The film does well in making Lee Israel and her fraudulent letters a rather interesting matter, it’s a story truly deserving of the spotlight and they don’t squander it. It’s made me want to find out more about her and I’m sure it’ll have the same impact on others. ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ is a great commentary on the eagerness to lap up literary content and buy into the world of the writer, any unheard of material is ripe for the picking without any due thought which makes her actions all the more understandable. The writers and director never paint Lee out to be some unholy crook but more a mildly unpleasant, anxiety-ridden alcoholic with a mouth on her…so like all writers!

Melissa McCarthy brings amazing presence to the film and silences any critics to her more usual shouty comedy flicks, which was me included. Like in ‘St. Vincent’, McCarthy shines by proving great dramatic chops that she clearly has within her. Richard E. Grant is purely enigmatic with a cheeky smile helping him bring Jack to spritely life. The two actors bounce off each other so well, the characters they play clearly sharing like-minded souls in bittersweet humour and sadness. The pair of performers play the relationship beautifully with a radiant spark flaring up between them every time they’re on screen together.

It’s an intriguing film and very close to being a joyful watch. The witticisms and emotional current that carry the film are wonderfully balanced.

7/10

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The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

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Halloween is done and dusted so that must mean we’re onto the next big holiday event, which is Christmas and here comes the first festive feature of the year. ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ retells the 1816 story of ‘‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’ and the famous ballet composed by Tchaikovsky, so with Disney behind this, is the film a feast for the senses?

Just before her father makes her attend a high society ball, Clara (Mackenzie Foy) is gifted a present that her mother wished her to have. The present is a intricate egg but it’s locked and Clara needs the key which leads her out of the party into a fantasy land led by a regent trio in fear of Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) who resides in the Four Realms. Clara’s arrival could spell a hopeful change for the kingdom and she may just discover more than she bargained for.

A stellar cast and the usually reliable might of the House of Mouse aren’t strong enough qualities to save this film from feeling insanely lifeless and a less than encouraging early welcome to the Christmas season. It just feels like there is never enough time or care placed into any character and Clara herself becomes a less than engaging heroine. The script chugs along with no apparent desire to make you connect to what you are seeing.

There is a glorious amount of colour and pizzazz on show, lavish sets and fancy production design all look well and good but they aren’t enough to distract from a painful script and frequently irritating performances, Foy being dull a lot of the time and Keira Knightley going down the squeaky route in the same vein as the annoying presence of Michelle Williams in ‘I Feel Pretty’. The acting can be slightly forgiven as it fits the mould of a super child friendly fantasy flick but the abundance of horrendous cliches littering the entire screenplay would even make a 10 year old with little film knowledge roll their eyes.

This film does excel in the costume department and I have no doubt for that and Hair and Make-up it will pick up some Academy nominations. The attention to detail in these areas are exquisite and it does help the film at least look spectacular, it’s a shame they couldn’t have tried putting that effort in the storytelling because it’s all hollow and fairly sleep-inducing.

‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ feels like a lazy script transplant from 2010 Disney feature ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and with further lazy parallels to a Narnia like entrance to a snowy landscape and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ references including the yellow brick road and a riff on the “we’re not in Kansas anymore” line, it’s a movie that comes across like no real thought has gone into the process, making the whole thing less than a transporting experience to watch.

A grand costume affair but for a yuletide film, this leaves you feeling exceptionally cold.

3.5/10