Lee Israel, as she is depicted in director Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, only liked four things in life: Writing, Dorothy Parker, drinking, and her cat. If you weren’t one of those things, then she had no time for you and would probably lazily insult you for standing in her way. Israel, sensitively portrayed by Melissa McCarthy, was a misanthrope of an all-too-recognizable order, frequently eschewing human company and hurling cusses at the people she did find herself next to.
All between slugs of whiskey, of course. Early in the film, Israel barges into the office of her disapproving agent (Jane Curtin) to angrily demand an advance, but mostly to lambaste Tom Clancy (seen as a smug partygoer in an earlier scene) for being more successful than she. Her agent points out that she is caustic and unlikable and writes biographies no one wants to read. Her agent is right. Israel lives in squalor and poverty and desperation, taking comfort in the caustic and biting wit of people like Noël Coward.
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