One of the movies that I enjoyed at the BFI London Film Festival was “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”. You may remember the story about an American biography writer who, was a fairly difficult person to be around. Most of us are aware of the difficulties in earning a living as a writer. Some do exceedingly well, most struggle to repeat the success of one or two notable works.
Lee Israel is one such author, having published a couple of biographies, writers block or creative inertia sets in. Inevitably the reality of paying bills becomes increasingly harder. Her management of stress (or lack of) resulted in having nobody to turn to for comfort or encouragement. Aside from a cat, social connections are as sparse as the flow of words on the blank page that stares back at her. She happens upon Jack Hock, (Richard E Grant) an Englishman surfing the bars and streets of New York. He becomes her only confidant and accomplice.
Opportunity presents itself whilst doing research, she finds a letter hidden within the pages of a library book. Hoping nobody has noticed and applying “finders-keepers” she takes it. The letter is sold to pay her rent. The idea takes hold that personalised letters from deceased authors and actors are collectable. Israel has a genuine talent for understanding character and replicating their voice. She sets about forging letters and selling them to dealers, who invariably lack the motivation to have the letters authenticated. They appear to be what they probably could not be, yet money changes hands, because money talks. This eventually evolves into stealing genuine letters and replacing them with forgeries.
Research and Evidence
Eventually the FBI close in on Israel, hence how her story is known. There is little to suggest that this is a criminal mastermind or indeed a particularly tenacious investigation by the FBI, who seem sufficiently inept as to tip her off that they will be examining her apartment, enabling Israel to dispose of all evidence of her wrongdoing.
You may have a perspective on this sort of criminal act, forgery. Yet again, this is an example of what people will do under the wrong pressures. However, it is also evident that people are often persuaded by appearances and rarely look beneath. This is particularly pertinent in most financial fraud. The temptation of market beating returns or guarantees, when a closer inspection will reveal something altogether different. The regulator does its best to prevent financial fraud, but of course this is all part of the human condition, to play upon the duplicity or naivety of others. Fraud is something that we are constantly checking, but many are duped. As we are now in the season of keeping warm inside, if you or your friends are discussing the latest fantastic offering, please remember this – and ask for proper, regulated advice.
I enjoyed the movie, which stars Melissa McCarthy providing a really sharp portrayal of Lee Israel and Richard E Grant as Jack Hock. Here is the trailer.
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