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August 19th, 2019

 Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Now on Demand

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I am a criminal.

I have broken the law more times than I can remember. And not just when I drove 70 mph on I89.

When I was in my 20s, I went on a date with a mature-looking 19 year old. At the restaurant, I was able to buy her a martini without any problem. I was breaking the law, right? I know the restaurant certainly was.

Around ten years ago, I got into the habit of ordering synthetic amphetamines over the internet from other countries. It was marketed as plant food. Wink wink. One time I sent a small baggie to my brother in law. According to the law, I was an international drug smuggler, right? Not so different from El Chapo.

I went out with a Chinese woman for a while. I asked her what her impressions were about the differences between the laws in the United States vs. her homeland. I was expecting her to talk about the repressiveness of the Communist regime. Nope. She complained about how difficult it is to watch movies for free online in the US. It turns out that the main cultural difference between our two countries is America’s rigid copyright laws.

I think that the US is a great place to live. But that’s only because the criminal justice system doesn’t have the resources to prosecute people every time we break the law. Otherwise, we’d be nothing but a gigantic prison colony surrounding Utah.

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” is the delightful true story of a pair of felons who broke laws that do not need to exist.

Melissa McCarthy plays Lee Israel. When we meet her in 1991, she is the ultimate loser cat lady. She used to be a best-selling biographer, but those days are long gone. Now she lives in a filthy apartment that she can’t afford. She can’t keep a girlfriend because she’s so cantankerous and miserable. She has no friends, no family, and she drinks all day when she should be writing.

The movie goes from sad to fun when Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) picks her up at a bar. Jack is an outrageous, flamboyant British dandy. He has made his way in life using his good-looks and charm. Now that he’s in his 60s and his looks are fading, Jack’s charm has become a false bravado – a shield that hides his loneliness and fear.

They are both caustic, dishonest sociopaths who have been rejected by society. Their friendship is funny and sweet. And it seems perfectly logical for them to become partners in crime.

Lee Israel begins typing made-up personal letters from dead celebrities like Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward. Jack sells them to New York memorabilia dealers for hundreds of dollars a pop.

For the first time in years, Lee is enjoying her life and finding an eager audience for her work. So what if it is based on a lie? All she’s doing is selling letters. Let’s not make a federal case out of it!

The FBI did indeed make a federal case out of it.

My observation is that it is easy for legislatures to criminalize things but extremely difficult to overturn unnecessary laws and legalize them again. I think we should tear up every law book and start from scratch with the handful of crimes that really should be illegal.

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