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There’s a scene in Marielle Heller’s new film “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” during which Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) is having a dinner with Anna (Dolly Wells), a bookstore owner who buys Lee’s forged letters that are, to Anna’s knowledge, written by famous literary figures. The dinner could be interpreted as a date – the two women have become friendly and it seems as if they like each other.
“I remember getting the note from somebody, ‘Is it clear that they are asking each other out on a date?,’” said Heller when she was guest on IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit Podcast. “And I was like, ‘No, it’s not clear, and nor should it be clear because that’s what it feels like to be a gay woman in 1991 and not being somebody that wears their sexual orientation on their sleeve – this sort of slightly dancing around the issue.’”
Scene - Lee - Character - Anna - Conversation
It’s an incredible scene that reveals so much about Lee’s character. As Anna tries to pivot the conversation to being more personal, sharing intimate details about her own life, McCarthy gives a very guarded performance as Lee backs away, sabotaging any hope that this meeting this could be interpreted as a date.
“Lee is somebody who moves through the world in much more protected, not closeted, but she’s very private, and so her interactions with her potential love are therefore shrouded in these layers of mystery where they are trying to read between the lines,” said Heller. “So much of what is being said is about what they are not saying, and I found that beautiful and exciting.”
Things - Heller
One of the things Heller found particularly exciting was that, while...
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