Tag Archives: Oscar Bait

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

*Minor spoilers*

Things aren’t going great for Lee Israel. Once a lauded writer, her last book – a biography of Estée Lauder – has been a commercial and critical flop. Her agent is avoiding her calls, she’s behind on her rent and she’s just been let go from her job.

Struggling to stay afloat and keep her sick cat from death’s door, Lee sells a personal letter she received from Katharine Hepburn to a local bookseller. Coincidentally, while researching her pet project, another biography this time on Fanny Brice, she finds a letter from Brice to an unknown recipient. Lee sells this to the same bookseller, a lovely woman called Anna (Dolly Wells).

Something Anna says gets Lee to thinking, if the letter contained better content it would no doubt be worth more. An idea is born and Lee begins to forge letters from some of the most prolific deceased writers of all time – Noël Coward, Dorothy Parker – embellishing little details to make them seem more realistic and interesting.

This soon becomes quite the booming business and Lee’s damn good at it. Unfortunately, after one of her Noël Coward letters is sent to a collector who once knew him, it draws suspicion for its openness about his sexuality. Coward was not one to talk so freely about his gayness. In an attempt to keep a low profile and still bring in the coin, Lee calls in a favour from her new friend, drug dealer Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) who agrees to sell the letters for her.

But how long can the pair keep it up when the world of literary collectibles (and the FBI) are on high alert?

I adored this. McCarthy is wonderful as Lee, a woman with immense talent and a drink problem. I find her situation unbearably sad and as things unravel – and she revisits old wounds AND turns away from new opportunities, it hurts to watch. One particular scene made me cry like a baby and it wasn’t dramatic at all, just supremely relatable.

The friendship between Jack and Lee is also lovely if incredibly tempestuous. Jack’s flamboyance contrasts well with Lee’s reluctance to add any sort of colour or frippery to her life. She’s a no-nonsense broad with a mission and has little time for other people, while he’s determined to rinse every ounce of joy out of life before it’s too late – and damn the consequences.

But there are always consequences, aren’t there? – and our pair are about to learn them. I can’t imagine anyone not having a good time with Jack and Lee but it’s a must for any fan of literature and masses of gumption. Loved it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Green Book

Green Book (2018)

While there aren’t really many surprises here, certainly in terms of structure (we’ve all seen this narrative before: two very different people are thrown together and gradually, against all odds, become firm friends). I don’t care about that if it’s done well and boy is this done well.

You get the impression, and I’ve read a few things to this effect, that some of the elements are embellished for creative license but that’s to be expected. In the film adaptation of my life you can be confident I’ll be exaggerating the fudge out of most of my experiences.

I found this a really pleasant and lovely viewing experience. I’m fact, another solo cinema-goer, who just happened to sit himself in front of me, guffawed all the way through the film and it made me smile a lot. That kind of cinematic joy is infectious and one of the things I enjoy the most about the movies.

Green Book is very funny in the broadest sense and the central performances are truly magical. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali bounce off each other delightfully and their chemistry is palpable. MA is one of my favourite working actors today with an energy that commands the screen, even in lesser works like Alita: Battle Angel (review coming soon) and I’ll drink up anything he appears in. As classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley he treads the line perfectly between sad and haughty, a refined and cultured gentleman with a profound loneliness to him.

Tony Lip (Mortensen) in contrast is a brash Italian-American with a potty mouth and dubious views – but maybe also a heart of gold. His ignorance is not acceptable but he’s open to personal growth even if he wouldn’t admit it. When he finds himself temporarily out of work, he has little choice but to take Dr. Shirley’s job offer – to drive him around the deep South as he embarks on his piano tour. With the permission of his lovely wife Dolores (Linda Cardellini), Tony hits the road with his new associate – with mixed results.

The title comes from the green book thrust into Tony’s hands by Dr Shirley’s record company – a black traveller’s resource outlining all the motels and hotels that accept black guests. It’s bleak af and not something I knew existed (in my own white ignorance).

Of course the pair start off rocky (with vastly different views and opinions) but as the tagline confirms, from this trip a true friendship is born and I’m not ashamed to admit that I loved every single minute of it.

It’s classic Oscar bait (and obviously a strong contender for this year’s Best Picture) and although I’d love Black Panther to win out of principle (it won’t) and The Favourite (just because it is the best film in this category that I’ve seen) – it’s definitely up there.

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

The Happy Prince

The Happy Prince (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

The untold story of the last days in the tragic times of Oscar Wilde, a person who observes his own failure with ironic distance and regards the difficulties that beset his life with detachment and humor.

This is clearly a passion project and it is good but there’s something about it that didn’t stick as much as I’d expected it to. I’m not sure that this is the failure of the piece or my own but there it is. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for such a depressing end to Oscar’s life – perhaps I wanted to remember him as the quick witted poet of my dreams instead.

That said it is refreshing to witness his story from a less glamorous standpoint. Rupert Everett plays Wilde very well and I was interested in the way he played him as washed up and sad. The dandy part of Mr Wilde is long gone, he is bloated and coughing up blood, dealing with the PTSD of jail life, of how quickly his celebrity has been turned against him for his so-called crimes.

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He has a handful of faithful friends and a new book in the pipeline but he is penniless and broken. When his beloved Constance (Emily Watson) passes on all hope of a reconciliation is lost and he fails to reconnect with his children. Though he’d wished for this, would it really have be an option when he’s still in love with Bosie (Colin Morgan)?

Via flashback we explore this relationship and the hurt left behind by his spell in the big house following his indiscretions. It’s not cheerful viewing but if you like period drama with dedicated performances then there will be something here for you.

My Rating

3.5/5.