The theme for this month – Written Deceptions

Theatrical Release

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

Directed by Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl)
Written by Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said, Walking and Talking) and Jeff Whitty
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone, Gregory Korostishevsky, Jane Curtin and Stephen Spinella.

“Full of well-earned laughter and hard-won wisdom, it’s as smart and mature as any movie in contention for Oscars this season.

“The title of the film (and of Israel’s 2008 memoir) is a phrase Israel wrote in a forged letter supposedly by Dorothy Parker, apologizing for drunken misbehavior. But Israel was proud of her forgery career, which she turned to in the 1980s after her celebrity biographies stopped selling and she wound up on welfare by age 50. The film follows her as she goes from begging her agent Marjorie (Curtin, 71) for an advance to forging some 400 letters by Parker, Noel Coward, Lillian Hellman and others before the FBI arrests her.

“The sophisticated story coscripted by Holofcener, 58, a noted poet of comic discontent, merits the Oscar nomination it is likely to get for best adapted screenplay, while giving extremely likely best actress Oscar nominee McCarthy the role of a lifetime.” Thelma Adams, AARP

“But her movies for the most part since Bridesmaids have been terrible, including The Boss, The Heat, Identity Thief, Tammy, Spy, Life of the Party, and The Happytime Murders. That she is the best thing in these movies isn’t saying much. Like Eddie Murphy, another potentially great actor who perpetually underuses his gifts, or, I fear, Tiffany Haddish, who in the space of little more than a year is already piling up a roster of stinkers undeserving of her brilliance, McCarthy can be her own worst enemy in her choice of material.

“But no more, I wager, after Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a movie in which she doesn’t sell out her talent by becoming all serioso in the manner of actors panting for Oscars but instead extends the forcefulness of her comic persona into darker realms even she might not have been aware she could inhabit.” Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

“Grant co-stars as her partner in crime, a grifter who’s dealing with his own demons. The film probes serious matters — loneliness, addiction, illness, and trying to make a living — while also being thoroughly entertaining.” Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

“The pivot of the action is Lee’s unwillingness to expose her own life and character to the scrutiny and criticism of readers, and the gap that her inhibition—one born of her fortress of privacy—makes between her artistic soul and her artistic voice.

“The movie never excuses or minimizes Lee’s crimes (which eventually include the theft and sale of authentic letters); yet it considers them in the paradoxical light of her own talent, which, she asserts, was revealed more definitively in those forgeries than in her prior avowed works. The confessional book itself, on which the movie was based—and in which Israel cites and discusses these fraudulent works of her authentic artistry—provides a fascinating nonfiction view of these fictions. But the movie adaptation reaches beyond its source to broaden its backdrop and evoke resonant depths of mood, context, history, and perspective.” Richard Brody, New Yorker

Archival films

Deathtrap (1982)

Directed by Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Network)
Written by Jay Presson Allen (Cabaret, Prince of the City)
Starring: Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, Dyan Cannon, Irene Worth, Henry Jones, Joe Silver and Tony DiBenedetto.

“The plot can’t be disclosed without giving away secrets, but generally it concerns a failing writer of suspense plays who becomes involved with a young protege in a new play with a murderous plot they are acting out in real life. The twists come fast and unexpectedly enough so they don’t seem as preposterous as they are.” Bob Thomas, Associated Press

Almost Famous (2000)

Written and directed by Cameron Crowe (Say Anything…, Jerry Maguire)
Shot by John Toll (The Thin Red Line, Braveheart)
Starring: Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, Zooey Deschanel and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

“Coming as it does on the heels of the most intensely raunchy and witless summer in Hollywood history — a season Variety editor Peter Bart feared might ‘kill the art of movie comedy forever’ — the timing of Crowe’s Almost Famous could hardly be better.

“It’s not only the most gentle and effortlessly funny movie so far this year, it’s a film with a style and sensibility that wonderfully harkens back to Hollywood’s golden age of sophisticated comedy, and in particular to the masterpieces of Crowe’s filmmaking idol, Billy Wilder.

“Without a major star in its cast, it may not prove to be as big a hit as Crowe’s 1996 Jerry Maguire, but it’s every bit as good a movie. If there’s any justice in the world, it should earn the Seattle-based director a third Oscar nomination, and establish him as the industry’s comedy filmmaker to beat.” William Arnold, Seattle P-I

Screenings:

Can You Ever Forgive Me? opens at The Grand Cinema on Friday, Nov. 2.
Deathtrap will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2 in the Center for Spiritual Living (206 N. J St).
Almost Famous will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9 in the CSL.

The TFC Discussion Night for these three films is Wednesday, Nov. 14 in the CSL.

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One thought on “Producers’ Film Picks for November 2018

  1. Tonight’s discussion films comprise writers in three stages: emerging (Almost Famous), the peak of fame (Deathtrap) and the grim recovery period of past fame (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

    All three films handle the subject of notoriety in pointed ways: egos are placated, illusions craftily manifested. Reflective of the cultures these films are immersed in (rock and roll, Broadway, literary archives), the writers seek to give their audiences exactly what they want. And therein lies the problem. Within these cultures, reputations are at stake, unwritten codes are honored and authenticity is an elusive premium.

    The piercing mental toll this takes on protagonists William, Lee and Sydney tightens their intellectual leverage against outside forces of conflicting persuasion (the press and the law) yet ultimately unravels each character.

    Come join us tonight (Nov. 14, 7 p.m., 206 North J Street, Tacoma, WA) to discuss these films and support our own little local cinéaste culture.

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