- 13 Feb 19
Melissa McCarthy is sublime in witty meditation on loneliness.
Melissa McCarthy more than earns her second Oscar nomination in this compelling, quietly profound true story of how biographer Lee Israel resorted to forging letters by famous writers to pay her bills. Inserting her caustic wit into the correspondence of greats like Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker, Lee finally found her words embraced as genius - just not hers.
As Lee, McCarthy is scathing, bitter and misanthropic, her already irascible nature heightened due to the stress of overdue rent and hefty vet bills for her beloved cat. Lashing out at everyone around her, she nonetheless strikes up a friendship with Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant, sublimely dandyish), a fellow alcoholic with whom Lee shares a spiky but increasingly warm chemistry. Jack soon becomes Lee's accomplice, although the air of subversive mischief that surrounds their scheme quickly turns to dread as suspicions arise about the forged letters.
Both Lee and Jack are gay, and experience their sexuality and isolation in different ways. Lee, still hurt by a past love, instinctively recoils from friendship and intimacy, though her cold exterior belies the brief flashes of tenderness we become privy to. Though brazen, she is not fearless, and indeed it is her fear of being vulnerable in her writing that stops her from becoming one of the greats she mimics. Jack, whose own life and support system has been ravaged by the AIDs crisis, is still clinging onto life and vibrancy with a string of empty flings and flirtations.