Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) - full transcript

The true story of bestselling celebrity biographer (and friend to cats) Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), who made her living in the 1970s and '80s profiling the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estee Lauder and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. When Lee is no longer able to get published because she has fallen out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception, abetted by her loyal friend Jack.

Subtitles by explosiveskull

I swear she's
older than my mom.

Fucking kill me if I'm still
doing this at her age.

Kill you now
if you ask me nicely.

You know we're not allowed
to eat or drink in here.

- Yeah.
- Oh, fuck off.

What did you say?

Uh, I believe I said,
"Oh, fuck off."

Pack up.

I'm almost finished

- with this document.
- Now.



Come on.

Since when did you get picky?


Hey, taxi!

Oh, thank you.

But then there was nobody left,

and I was standing by myself.

And how long until
your next book will come out?

Good question. Uh...

Well, this is a surprise.

You invited me,
did you not?

You didn't reply.

Coat check?

At my party, we just threw
the coats on the bed.

Good to see you, too, Lee.

You never called me back,
and I...

I have new ideas.

Is this why you came?

- Yeah.
- Well, I'm glad you're here.

Try to have a good time.

I like interviews.
Don't get me wrong.

I just wish that you could
get it all done at once.

Did you read it?
It was...

I haven't missed
a day of writing

for the past 25 years.

And do you ever
have trouble beginning?

I don't subscribe to
the notion of writer's block.

You never experience it?

Writer's block is a term

invented by
the writing community

to justify their laziness.

My success
is nothing more than

that I have the determination
and stamina

to sit and get the work done.

- It's simple.
- Jackass.

I mean,
I find his distaste

for linear plot structure
downright macabre.

Well, that was quick.
Did you get properly fed?

This week,
will you return my call?

Sure. We'll see.

I'm working on a lot
of fascinating projects.

I just need my agent
to call me back.

I don't think
the world is waiting

for another Fanny Brice
biography, Lee.

And we may disagree

on what is
considered fascinating.

Good night.

Why do you have mostly-used
toilet paper rolls

in the cabinet
in your bathroom?

So that the guests
can have a full roll.

Well, that's batshit,

I lost my ticket,
but that's my coat over there.

There on the end.

Have a good night, ma'am.

You'll be a very rich man.

We'll talk about it
in a few years.

I want to talk about it now!

There are lots
of things to consider.

After all,
they are first cousins.

Well, that's
not unusual, our grandmother

and grandfather
were first cousins.

Yes, and look at us.

Here, Jersey girl.

I brought your favorite.
I brought you shrimpy.

Hmm? Come on.
It's your favorite.

Very well. I assure yo,
Oscar, I will think about it..

So, you still have
a balance, Miss Israel.

Yeah, I'm aware of that.

But she's really sick
and she's very old.

I'm sorry,
but the doctor told me that

I need to have at least
half the balance

before I do any tests.

Didn't you people take
a Hippocratic oath?

You owe us $82.

God. Wow.

You know, if she did come
out here, she'd see this.

All right, I have $14.

I'm sorry, but I can't.

No, we need half the balance.



Okay. Just these.

Come on, man. I schlepped
these all the way here.

I'll give you two dollars.

I don't want the others.

I don't even need
that much.

I just don't want to carry
them around anymore.

I got a sick cat, and I...

I told you I don't want
the others.

There's people waiting.

You know, you don't have
to be so disrespectful.

Okay? You have actually
carried my books here.

And you are?

I'm Lee Israel.

Oh, Miss Israel.
We have copies

of your latest work
right over there.

You're a rude little ape.

Okay, get your garbage

- off my counter.
- No!

- Miss Israel?
- Hi, Andrei.

It's been three months.

I know. I'm sorry.
I'm working on it.

I don't want to call
the management.

Can you just cut me
a little slack? I'm...

going through a rough patch,
and I just lost my job.

I think it was ageism.

You've been here
longer than I have,

and you've been
kind to my mother.

- Just get it to me soon.
- I will.

Absolutely. Thank you.

Uh, hey, in the meantime,

do you think you could
send an exterminator

up to my apartment?

I have an untenable
fly situation.

Good afternoon, darling.

Hey, Jack Handsome.

Can I have a beer,
pretty please?

I don't know. Can you?

Lee Israel?

It's Jack Hock.

Last time I saw you...
Thank you.

We were both pleasantly pissed

at some horrible book party.

Am I right?

It's slowly flooding back to me.

Hey, what can I get you?

You're friends with,
um, Julia some...

- Steinberg!
- Yeah.

She's not an agent
anymore. She died.

She did? Jesus, that's young.

Maybe she didn't die.

Maybe she just moved back
to the suburbs.

I always confuse those two.

No, that's right.

She got married and had twins.

Better to have died.


I've just come from having
my teeth bleached.

How do they look?

Why would you do that?

Oh, teeth are a dead giveaway.

- Okay.
- Can I buy you a drink?

Even though you're
the posh writer?

- Thank you.
- Craigy?

- Yeah?
- Top her up.

You know,
I keep trying to remember

that party that you mentioned.

And something keeps
flashing in my head.

I know something happened,

but I can't seem
to put my finger on it.

Bad shrimp?

- Here you go.
- Jack Hock, you said, huh?

That's me.
The renegade, the rebel.

Jack Hock, big cock.

I'm sure
it'll come back to me.

How's old life
been treating you?

I can honestly boast

that I'm banned from
Crosby Street Booksellers.

I'm banned from Duane Reade.

All of them.

I have a little
shoplifting problem.

Well, it's all in the past,
but, uh,

but for some reason,
I have a very memorable mug.

And now I have to take a bus

just to buy shampoo
and aspirin and stuff.

I'm joking. Duane Reade's
not the only rodeo in town.

You pissed in a closet.

- I did what?
- You pissed in a closet.

Now I remember.

Nobody could stop talking

about the handsome
English gentleman...

Why, thank you.

...who was so shit-faced

he mistook
the coat closet for the can.

You ruined thousands
of dollars' worth of furs.

Well, I...

Those old biddies
didn't know what hit 'em.

Oh, their disgusting furs
covered in piss.

Dogs followed them home.

I'm glad somebody
found it amusing.

Some folks stopped talking
to me after that night.

- Well, fuck 'em.
- Cheers.

So, do you work, Jack Hock?

Oh, this and that.

Mostly that.

I happen to have
some very nice cocaine,

if you're interested.

No, I'm not.

Oh, Jesus, it's not like
I have it all the time.

Boy's gotta do
what a boy's gotta do.

who are you to judge?

It's four in the afternoon,
and you're drunk.

- I'm hardly drunk.
- Mmm?

It's not "anyways,"
it's "anyway."

Anyways, let's keep drinking.

The day is young.


You getting off
at the next stop?

79th. And you?

Yeah, I'll get out there.

Works for me.

I think I saw you
at Zabar's once.

You were shouting at someone.

They have terrible
customer service.

I shopped there for years.

They've really great bread.

Oh, it's delicious.

- It's really good.
- So good.

Oh, my.
That's the guy.


That's the asshole
from Crosby Street Bookseller.


- What are the odds of that?
- Oh, I love the way you smell.

Pen and paper.
Quick, quick, quick.


- Come on.
- I've got... Hang on. I...

- Got it!
- Shh!

This is me.

Nice place.

Used to be a lot nicer.
How about you?

Couple of blocks along.


Jack, this was not unpleasant.

See you tomorrow?

You shall.

"Lee, today was to have been

"the Esquire shoot with Spenc.

"Difficult days, these.

"Thank you for your sympathy
and understanding.

"Ever yours, Kate.

"P.S. Forgive the splotches.
All tears lately."

What a lovely apology.

This is very special.
Why would you part with it?


You know, I'm not
a very sentimental gal.

Handwritten even.

You're the Lee Israel?

Jesus, is there another one?

I've read your biographies.

- Have you?
- You're a wonderful writer.

Thank you.

You might want
to remind my publisher.

Well, her letters usually have

the intimacy
of a phone book,

but this one is really nice.

How does $175 sound?

Sounds terrific.

I rang you.
You didn't ring me back.

- Should I take it personally?
- Well, why wouldn't you?

I'd never get out of bed.

Then luckily for me, you did.

I'm coming over to join you.

I'm not good
at reading social cues.

Uh, scotch and soda, Craig,

- and I'll buy his next one.
- You got it.

things are looking up.

Aren't you writing a new book?

About Fanny Brice.


Fanny Brice.

Just the greatest vaudeville
comedian of her time.

You sure you're a fag?



Just recently found out
that my cousin, Sidney,

was in possession of this
delightful bonne bouche.

And I just thought that
you might be interested in it.

Fanny Brice.
One of my favorites.

I'm writing a new
biography about her.

Well, what a funny
coincidence then,

that your cousin had this.

Didn't she say, "Wrong is for
other people"? I love that.

She did say that.

So, what do you think?

I believe I can sell this.

I could give you $75.

Oh. Uh...

I could give more
for better content.

It's a bit bland is all.


Um, well, do you think
you could pay in cash?

Oh. Let me see
if I have enough.

I'm glad to hear
you're writing another book.

I'll be the first to buy it.

Did you hear Tom Clancy
is getting paid

three million dollars

to write more right-wing
macho bullshit?

Are you kidding me?

That blowhard's
getting three million dollars?

Oh, to be a white male

that doesn't even know
he's full of crap, right?

I've tried to write a little.
Short stories.

I know better than
to presume they're any good.

Oh, I can't believe
I just admitted that.

I'm sure they're terrible.

They might be.

Or they might not be.

You know, I could take a look.


I'll be honest.

Unfortunately, I believe you.


- Ms. Israel!
- I hear they got Tom Clancy

three million dollars

to write some more
red-baiting propaganda.

Lee, my morning
has been long enough already.

He's a fraud.

What's your point?

He was drinking sherry
at your party.

No self-respecting writer
would drink sherry.

Oh, Lord, Lee.

I need you to get me
a book advance

on my Fanny Brice book.

I need you to get
ten thousand dollars.

I'm months behind in my rent,
and my cat is sick.

And isn't this the exact
reason that I have an agent?

I can't get you an advance
like that, Lee. I just can't.

Give me one reason
why that cocky shit

gets three million dollars...

and you can't get me
ten thousand?

Are you that bad of an agent?

Toni, could you please
close the door?

Ms. Israel and I have some
sensitive business to discuss.

Yeah, God forbid
you have to hear

an adult conversation, Toni!

I'll give you three reasons.

Number one,
Tom Clancy is famous.

Here we go!

Yes, you have written a couple
of successful biographies

and you've managed to disappear

behind your subject matter,

but because of that,
nobody knows who you are!

Because I'm doing my job.

Number two, Tom Clancy
does every radio show.

He does Larry King.
He goes to every book signing.

He plays the game.

Meanwhile, you have destroyed

every bridge
I have built for you.

See, that is beside the point.
I am doing good writing!

Number three. Nobody wants
a book about Fanny Brice.

There is nothing new or sexy
about Fanny Brice.

I couldn't get you
a $10 advance

for a book about Fanny Brice.

I had a book on the New York
Times bestseller list.

That has to count
for something.

Lee, I have known you
a long time,

and believe me,
it hurts to say this to you.

Tell me what to do
then, Marjorie.

I have to do something.

I'll take anything.

Magazine pieces,
cracker box copy.

Okay. Okay.
You have two options.

You either become
a nicer person,

you put on a clean shirt,
you stop drinking,

you say "please"
and "thank you."

Oh, God. Give me
a fucking break, please.

Well, clearly that's
not going to happen.

Or you can take
the time to go out

and make a name for yourself.

And then maybe, maybe,

I can get you paid
for your work again.

And how is it that I'm
supposed to do that, Marjorie?

I'm a 51-year-old woman

who likes cats
better than people.

Not exactly hot and sexy,
as you like to say.

Write your book
in your own voice.

Well, you've been threatening
to do it for 10 years.

I'd love to, Marjorie.

Except that
I have bills to pay.

And not everybody
has an ex-husband

who left them
a Classic Six on the Park!

You can be an asshole
when you're famous,

but as an unknown,

you can't be such a bitch, Lee.

Nobody is going to pay

for the writer Lee Israel
right now.

My suggestion to you
is you go out there

and you find another way
to make a living.



"I have a new grandkid,
and he got my old nose.

"Do I have to leave him

"an extra something
for repairs?"

Yeah, I can definitely get
a lot more for this one.

I mean, the P.S.
makes it priceless.

How does $350 sound?

So, one of each,
twice a day, in her food.

The infection will probably
go away in a day or two,

but keep giving her the pills.

It'll stabilize her.

And here, your mom
needed some milk.

Thank you, Miss Israel.

You're welcome.
Your hair looks nice today.

Oh, no, no, no.

Are you still having
insect problems?

Yeah, it's awful. I mean,
there's dead flies everywhere.

- I'm going to take care of it.
- Thanks.

My dear Billy...

I fear I must decline
your invitation

as this weekend heralds
the arrival of Marlene.

The canny old kraut remains

one of my most
cherished friends

despite her predisposition
to whining

ad nauseam
about her aging process

as though she were
the first gorgeous lady

undone by Father Time.

Ever yours, Noël.


Good afternoon.


I'm aware that you sell

and first editions.

Is that also for typed,
signed letters?

Yes, all of that.

What can I do for you?

Wondering if these might be
of interest to you?

These are wonderful.
Yes, I'd be very interested.

My cousin was a collector.

He's asked me to help sell
some of his treasures

so he can afford
the early bird specials

in Palm Beach.

Hard to find letters
that have a real...

taste of the author's

but these do just that.

Yes. I thought so, too.

He's a very, very clever man.

I can give you $200 for them.
How does that sound?

I'm afraid I can probably get
double that elsewhere, so...


You're probably right.

Name your price.

$400 seems fair.



Do you happen to have cash?

My cousin has closed
all of his banking accounts.

It's complicated.

I think I've got it.

And please, if you come across
anything else, bring it in.

I've got high-end clients
who come in frequently,

or I'll call them if I have
something I know they'll like.

Sure thing.

In fact, I have a buyer who
actually knew Mr. Coward.

He's gonna love these.



Okay, then.

Crosby Street.

I'm looking for
the tall guy. The book buyer.

This is he.

Oh, hello, thank God!

This is Lillian Schuster
from the fourth floor.

There's been an emergency.

The building's on fire!

Oh, God!

Can you get in?
Can you get into the building?

- My dog is in there.
- No!

There's flames coming out
of your window right now.

That was very enjoyable.

Go, go, go!

You do a very good voice.


You know what,
I got no jingle in my jeans.

You got a token?

This is a celebratory
drinking session,

and not a wallowing one.

It's hard to tell
the difference with you.

No offense.

I have figured out
a way to pay my bills

without shoveling shit.

And it is a good feeling.

Well, chin-chin.

You going to tell me how?

No. You'd be too scandalized.

Oh, my!

You clearly don't know me
very well.

Some things

are just better
kept to oneself,

even if they are brilliant.

Come on! Spill the beans!

Oh, God.

Can you keep a secret?

I have no one to tell.
All my friends are dead.

Quite by accident,
I find myself in a rather...

criminal position.

I can't fathom
what criminal activity

you could possibly involve in,

except a crime of fashion,
of course.

I'm embellishing...

documents, if you will.

Are you forging checks?


Literary letters
by prominent writers.

Not checks, not money,
just letters?

You're not understanding
the world of elite...

literary artifacts.

I suppose not.
But how thrilling

to be forging pieces of paper
that go where?


No, I am selling
to collectors.

How much are you
getting for them?

I don't know why I told you.

It's a waste of a secret.

I should have gone out there

and gotten a rock
and told the rock,

'cause I'd get
a better response.

Who else have you
told about this?

You're not the only one
without friends.

No. I remember
you had someone.

We broke up.
She was a pain in my ass.


Because she wanted things.

Like what? Money?


She wanted me
to listen to her troubles,

and become closer
with her friends

and shit like that.

The nerve.

I haven't been
in a relationship for years.

It's very hard
to meet someone at my age.

I'm losing my hair.

I don't think that's the reason.

Wasn't this, uh...

One line here was particularly
clever, don't you think?

It's wonderful.
I love his writing.

And Dorothy Parker as well.
Caustic wit, you know?

Caustic wit is my religion.

I can't carry it off.
You certainly can.

Doesn't help too much in
the relationship department.

I'm sure that's not true.

Okay, shall we settle up?


I know. Cash.

This has my number.

Well, the number of the store.

If you're ever
in the neighborhood,

and, you know, want to get
a drink or coffee sometime.

Sounds good.

I would like that.

You look like shit.

Oh, ditto.

You are looking
at one month's rent.

Who's Marlene?

It's Marlene.

God, I don't know why
I bother showing you anything.

How much did you get?

I got $400 for two.

That's a little more
than I just made.


I just sold a little coke.

Right here? To whom?

Some fool. Mostly laxative.
Just left.

You know what? Do me a favor

and keep me away
from your seedy dealings.

Hello, ladies.

I resent that.

Mmm. May I ask... sweet
your cinnamon roll is?

It's perfect.

If you don't like it,
I'll eat it.


Yeah, I'll have a coffee.


- And can you warm it up?
- 'Course I can.

How are you gonna eat it
with his dick in your mouth?

- First things first.
- Hmm.

God, you're shameless.

He started it.

- Oh, help yourself.
- Okay.

So, now we've both
got some money.

What are we gonna do?

What do you mean?

Gamble? Shop? Drink?

I don't suppose you dance?

Unlike you, I prefer to put
my money to good use.

Like buying groceries
or securing shelter.

I just thought
we should do something.

I mean, life is dreary.

♪ And love me
even half as much ♪

♪ As I love you ♪

Let's go sit down.

Thank you.

This next song goes out

to all the agoraphobic

who couldn't be here tonight.

We don't have to stay long.

One drink?

Yeah, I like it. It's good.

Scotch and soda?

Well, I'm here.

♪ Ladies, good night ♪

♪ It's time to say goodbye ♪

- Two scotch and sodas, please.
- You got it.

♪ Good night, ladies ♪

♪ Ladies, good night ♪

♪ It's time to say ♪

♪ Goodbye ♪

Sing it!

♪ All night long
you've been drinking ♪

♪ Your tequila ♪

♪ But now you sucked
your lemon peel dry ♪

♪ So why not get high? ♪

♪ Good night, ladies ♪

♪ Ladies, good night ♪

♪ It's a lonely ♪

♪ Saturday ♪

♪ Night ♪

No, it's not worth half that.

Really, a very fair price.

Here is the signature.

This is a $60 book.

Really worth
probably about $150.

Oh, baby, I hope

they've got some booze.

They most certainly
do not have booze.

Maybe you can find some coke.

How much is that?


How do you know
he really signed it?

It's authenticated.

- By whom?
- By an authenticator.

Silly twat.

Oh, look, cards.

- Hello.
- Hi.

Hey, Carl.


- Such a hoot, isn't he?
- Brilliant.

Such a hoot.


Take a look at this beauty.

I just got this one in.

Dorothy Parker.


I was born 30 years too late.

I feel the same way.

How much is that?

Oh, that...

We're not buying.
We're just looking today.

No problem.
I am asking $600.


But if you are tempted,

make sure you do
your homework.

Not all of the other dealers
are as discerning as we are.


Some care more than others
about getting the real thing.

Just in case,
who should we look out for?

That one.

The bowtie?

I'd stay away from him.

You run
your mouth too much.

- What'd I say?
- Too much.

Oh, good.
He's almost finished.

Let's go to your place.

- Come on.
- Finally.

Those flies
are driving me crazy.

Oh! It smells horrible.

I'll come back
when it's cleaned up.

What's going on in there?

What? Nothing.

It smells really bad.

Yeah, do you think I'm deaf?

I heard them.

Jesus, I'll do
some straightening.

I don't mind, Lee.
Come on.

Let me in.
I'll come and help you.

Oh, my God!

Oh, God.

That's the last of it.


I need a break.


Hello? Elaine?

Who is this?

Who is this?

You called me.

What is your name?

What's your name?

Harrison fucking Ford.

Who the hell are you?

Roush Agency.

Yes, is Marjorie there?

Lee Israel calling.

I'm sorry.
She's unavailable right now.

Oh, I see.

Will you please leave
word for her that I called?

Thank you.

Roush Agency.

Yes, I have
Nora Ephron calling.

Certainly, one moment.

Nora, hello.

Is this a good time?

Of course it is.
So wonderful to hear from you.

You star fucker!

Is that one word or two?

Who's Elaine?

None of your business.

Came out well.
Don't you think?


Okay, Miss Parker,
that will be $35.50.

Dear Joshua,

Alan told me
to write and apologize.

I have a hangover
that is a real museum piece.

I'm sure I must have
said something terrible.

To save me this kind
of exertion in the future,

I am thinking of having

little letters run off, saying

"Can you ever forgive me?

But until I do that,

can you ever forgive me?

Dearest Ralph.
Dear friend.

Dear Timothy.
Dear Germaine...

Gertrude Stein was right
about the roses,

but she was all wet
about California.

She said there was
no "there", there.

Well, I'm here
to tell you there is.

Yours, Dorothy Parker.

Dear Edith,
that terrible old fart...

the tyranny addict,
Joe Kennedy,

ruined Gloria Swanson

by luring her
away from Paramount...

Dear Sidney, I had no idea
you knew Dottie Parker.

A tragic loss, but she
had been dying for decades.

Whether it was drink
or chemistry

or character,
she was unable...

I hate the Kennedys...

What are you now? Waitress?

No, I robbed a bank.

Miss Israel.

How you doing, Mrs. Ungur?

Thank you for those cookies.

Those were good cookies,
weren't they?

Not as good as
the chocolate babka, but good.

I'll have to remember that.

Hey, tell your son
to go easy on me, huh?

Can't kick a old dog
out on the street, right?

Lillian Hellman.

Yours, Edna Ferber.

- Dorothy Parker.
- Judy Holliday.

- Louise Brooks.
- Marlene Dietrich.

Sincerely yours, Noël Coward.

You're Lee?

- Ms. Israel.
- Alan.

So, what do you got?




Very witty,
don't you think?

She had quite the mouth.

I think what she had
was a very big personality.

Uh-huh. Liked the ladies,
too, I heard.

You sure these
are the real thing?

I assume so.

Nah, most people will believe
anything you tell them anyway.

And people love this stuff.

Personally, I don't get it.

To Fanny Brice, Noël Coward,
and Dorothy Parker.

May their brilliance live on.

And to Lee, a brilliant writer
who happens to still be alive.

That's negotiable.

Wouldn't it be incredible if,
after you passed on...

people were
selling your letters?

Why on earth
would I want that?

Well, because. Most of us
mortals just disappear.

This way,
you still kind of exist.

No. When I die, who cares?

I just want somebody
to feed my cat.

I'll feed your cat.

Thank you.

Have you ever written
about yourself?

Nah. I don't think I'd find
myself very interesting.

I would. You should.

Instead of waiting for someone

to write a biography
about you.

You're very flattering, Anna.

I can't believe
that I'm doing this, but...

Here's one of my stories.

You brought it with you.

I'm an idiot, I know.

No, I mean,
I'll give it a read.

I've only taken
a couple of classes...

Oh, don't worry about it.
I'm... I'm honored.

You wear glasses.

Only recently.

I like them.
They look good.

I wasn't sure
about the frames.

They're nice.

I used to have perfect vision.

Don't you hate getting older

and watching
your parts fall apart?

Nah. You're too young.


I really thought that
I'd have accomplished

more by this time in my life.

You just need
to drink more alcohol.

I mean, plus,
you own the shop, right?

Well, I inherited it, yeah.

Truth be told, it's more
pressure than I thought.

My father took real pride in it.

Almost too much.

I try to live up to that.

Where did you grow up?

Woodside, Queens.

My parents live in Florida,
may they rest in peace.

I also have
a ridiculous brother

who lives
on Long Island, so...

What about you?

I'm an only child...

but I'm close with a few
of my cousins, though.

I think I have some cousins.
I think.

Not into the family thing?

No, I like my alone time.

Well, not every second,

You're here with me right now.

Oh, hey. I always
need a drinking buddy.

Thank you. That was fun.

I think I'm a little tipsy.
Are you?

It takes a lot more than that.

Oh, no.
Have I embarrassed myself?

What did Dorothy say?

"Can you ever forgive me?"

What? Did I say
something wrong?


You didn't say anything wrong.


This has been very nice.

It was.

It's always nice
to make a new friend.


Speak soon?

When I read your story,
I'll let you know.

I'm pretty busy these days,

so I don't know if I'll get
to it right away, but...

That's okay.

Good night.

Good night.

My dear boy,

I enjoyed
our talk tremendously

and was not the least bit
upset about the article.

My professional demise

has been gleefully
predicted for years,

but nonetheless,
I await the return

of your ruby-red lips
to Blue Harbor

in the event
my spirit should falter.

Yours and very much


This is quite something.

I thought so, too.

Well, as you know,

I think I already
have a buyer for it.

I'm gonna call him
as soon as you leave.


I sent the Marlene Dietrich
to Los Angeles.

I got a request
from a collector out there.


You guys do that?
You sell to other collectors?

Oh, yeah.

There's a whole world
of wheeling and dealing...

most of which
I don't partake in.

There are a lot of characters
in this line of work.

Hey, for a while there,
we had The Hitler Diaries.


Remember that?


Yeah. Not everyone
gets into this

because they respect
talent and history...

if you know what I mean.



You really should replace
the shower curtain, Lee.

You wanna discuss
decorating with me?

Who beat you up?

It's my own fault.

I didn't have enough money,

and I didn't know
until after, and...

Until it was too late.

I'm not even going to try
to understand that.

I used to get away
with so much.

Do you think it'll scar?

I couldn't find my keys,

I couldn't get
into my apartment.


And where is said apartment?

It was on Ninety-Second...

then it was on Ninety-Sixth.


You can sleep on my couch.

Thank you.

Are you
ready to order?

Uh, yeah, I'll have a burger,
rare, with onions.

I'll have the same, thanks.

You said you wanted a steak.
Get a steak.

You sure?

He's gonna have the steak.

Why don't you have a steak?

'Cause we came here
to get you a steak.

Thank you.

Skirt or T-bone?

He's gonna have
the T-bone, medium-rare,

and we'll have another round.

How've you gotten by
as long as you have?

Do not underestimate
sparkly blue eyes...

and a little bit
of street smarts.

They go a long way
in this city.

Although I may have
stretched my limits recently.

Yeah, but who
did you wanna be?

I mean, what was
the actual plan?

I honestly don't know
what to say.

I imagined I'd figure it out
as I went along,

and for the most part, I have.

I certainly have no regrets.

That can't be true.


You mean,
why don't I have

some brilliant talent
for copying like you do?

Is that what
you think I'm doing?

- You think I'm copying?
- Mm-hmm.

I'll have you know,
I'm a better

Dorothy Parker
than Dorothy Parker.

Oh, I'll drink to that.

- Get your feet off the couch.
- Really?

Look at it.

This is not a flop house.

There you go.

How old is that
old hairball anyway?

She's 12.

That is fucking old.
What's that in cat years?

This is Paul
from Armada Books.

Ms. Israel, I was wondering
if you could come in tomorrow?

I have a couple
of questions regarding

the last Coward letter
I purchased.

Please come in or call
as soon as you can.


It's important.

Thank you.
Thank you for bringing it in.

Hi, Lee.

What seems to be the problem?

You know I've got that client
who knew Noël Coward.

And he said that...

Mr. Coward would never have
been as explicit as he was

regarding his orientation.

It was illegal
in those days, and...

Anyway, apparently,
the letter is a fake.

I'm shocked.

I mean, my uncle
would be appalled.

You mean, your cousin?


My cousin has always been
very avuncular toward me. So.

I also got a call
from Los Angeles, Lee.

It seems one of your letters
was quite the controversy

at a convention out there.

I hate to say it, but your
name's been put on a list.

On a list?

People are on alert.

That's all.

They won't buy
from you anymore.



You got my messages.

- Thanks for coming.
- Yeah.

I brought some wonderful
Faulkners that I unearthed.

Not why I called.

Listen, the FBI has been
in here to see me.

The FBI?

They asked me to wear a wire.

I'm not gonna do that to you.
I'm a good guy.

And if they want me
to be a witness...

I'll lie.

But you're gonna
pay me $5,000.

I don't know
what you're talking about.

Well, come on, I'm not gonna
rat you out or anything.

That's very generous of you.

I don't have $5,000.

You're a clever woman.

Figure it out.

Oh, hello, welcome.

Oh, thank you very much.

My grandmother
just died, and...

- Oh.
- No, it's all right.

And I discovered these

when I was going through
her closet

and wondered if they might
be of interest to you or not.

- "Edna Ferber."
- You've heard of her?

Oh, yes.

She wrote that movie
with James Dean.

I guess I'm not really up
on all these things.

Just look at that.
Such wonderful knick-knacks.

So your granny
collected letters?

I don't know
any of the people in them,

but I feel they must be
worth something.

And how did you know

that I bought
this kind of thing?

- Do you?
- Sure.

Yeah. I could give you
$50 a piece.

I feel I could do
better than that.

No offense,
but a store in Brooklyn

offered me $200 for one.

For one?

Why didn't you
sell it to them, then?

I hate the boroughs.

I'm really good at this.

You should see me at it.

When last did you
go outside, Lee?

How much did you get?

First place gave me $600.

The other guy gave me $1,000.

You just got closer
to paying back

that asshole
with his own money.

He gave me $1,000!

- Was he suspicious?
- Oh, hell, no.

I always did want to be
an actor. Here.

How much did you say
he gave you?


You're stealing from me?

No. Uh...

What did I say?

He gave me $1,400 plus 600.
I mean...

- Isn't that what I said?
- No, moron.

It's not what you said.

You're stealing from me...

and you don't even know
what it is you're selling.


I made a mistake.

Okay? Here. Here.


Okay, they're
literary treasures.

One of a kind, carefully
written witticisms, okay?

They're not just
a piece of paper.

It's a portal
into a better time

and a better place
where people

still actually
honored the written word.

Okay! I get it.

Yeah, do you get it?

You better learn how to respect

what it is you're selling,

because it's my writing!



I mean...

you're impersonating
other people,

I mean, very well, I'm sure,

but come on.

Nobody is buying
Lee Israel letters.

You steal from me again,
and I'll fucking kill you.

This was your grandmother's?

Found it in her suitcase.
I assume it's real.

Do you think it's real?

- Looks that way.
- Good.

But there have been
some forgeries going around,

so I'm gonna have
to get it authenticated

before I can purchase it,
if that's all right.

You brought it back, right?

I couldn't.
I didn't know what to do.

You left it there?
God, you idiot.

Stop calling me an idiot.

I'm gonna go to jail
for this.

I'm just gonna
kill myself first.

And you can't do this anymore.

Lee, come on.
We can't stop now.

Well, everybody
is on high alert.

I don't have a shot at paying
that schmuck back.

Maybe you could steal
more real ones

like you did at first,
and I'll sell them.

Finding those letters
was a complete fluke.

Well, where did the real
ones go? Who has those?

Archives and museums.

And you have to have proof
that you're doing research.

They don't just let
anybody walk in.

You can get into archives.
You're a famous writer.

You can steal the letters,
copy them...

replace them with your copies,
sell the originals.

In my sticky finger days...

I'd choose the thing
that I wanted...

the things always had to come
in boxes like toothpaste...

and then when nobody
is paying attention,

I'd take the toothpaste
out of the box,

slip it into my pocket,

and replace it
with a used tube.

If anyone was suspicious,

they'd come back to the shelf
and see nothing is missing.

Win-win, baby.

Well, not the store.

What do you mean?

Win-win doesn't apply to
the story you just told.

You always put a downer
on everything, you know.

Just eat your noodles.

She needs fresh water...

and two pills twice a day.

And you gotta
mash it up in the...

Knock it off.

You gotta mash it up
in the food like I showed you.

- I will.
- No snooping.

Stay out of my bed,
and no smoking.


All right.

Can I help you?

Let's hope.
I'm doing a in-depth look

at writers and alcoholism.

Hence, Lillian Hellman.

Here's my contract
with my publisher.

I'm primarily interested in

more personal,
archival materials.

You know, any kind
of correspondence...

letters, diaries, journals.

I'll give you what we've got.

I told him I had
to get it authenticated.

He seemed pretty nervous.

Does this look familiar?

Yes, I bought this
from her.


Viking Press commissioned..."

What is all this stuff?

Why do you collect
old typewriters?

It's too complicated
to explain. It's my work.

I don't invite many people
to my home.

I'm a very private person.

Well, I take it you're
not much of a TV watcher.

Rots the brain. I don't
believe in it. I'm a reader.

Hello, kitty.

What do you got here?

Oh, a little coke,
a little dope...

and little old me.

Let's get this party started.



Hello. Elaine?


Is she there?

No, would you like
to leave a message?

Yes, this is Lee Israel.


And who is this?

This is Marie.

Well, okay, Marie.

Could you please
tell her that I called?

Same number.

Thank you.

Where is that bloody cat?



Kitty, kitty, kitty,
kitty. Psst.




Psst. Come and get it.

Come on.

Thank God.


Good morning.
The Lillian Hellman box

I was working on yesterday.

Ah, yes, the book
on drunk authors.

Who else are you
gonna be writing about?

You know what?
I have a bus to catch.

Of course.

I'll get what you need.


Here you go.
Sorry about the rush.

I get overly anxious
when I travel.

Oh. Of course.
I do, too.

- Thank you.
- Yeah.


Jersey, Mama's home.

What has he done to our home?


Where are you?


Hey, there.

You hiding, huh?

Oh, shit.

All right. I know
it looks bad, Lee, but...

Get out.

All right.

I couldn't resist him.
He's so adorable.

You have to understand, Lee.

Get out of my house.


What's happened?

My cat is dead!

What? Oh, no.

What's going on?

Oh, for fuck's sake,
get the fuck out of my house!

Darling, I can explain.

Okay, this is too
fucked up for me.

Lee, I'm so sorry.
It's not my fault.

It must have
just happened right now.

Get out. Get out! Get out!

Sorry. I did what you...

Oh, hi, Miss Israel.

Is Jersey okay?

Oh, no. I'm so sorry.

Um, I don't have
a backyard or anything,

so I wasn't sure
what to do with her.

It's okay. We can...
They can take care of that here.

Thanks for coming.

It sounded important.

It is.

Looks like you brought
Jersey with you.

How is that old bitch?

That's what I wanted
to talk to you about.

She, uh...

- She just died.
- Oh.

I just figured, since
she was a gift from you...

Was she?

I got too attached to her.

Getting another one?


No, I couldn't replace her.

That wouldn't feel right.

Maybe in time.

You know, I still go
to Aunt Eleanor's

pretty regularly.

Oh, my God. I haven't thought
about that place in years.

It's still there?
On Ninety-Six?

Exactly the same.

I mean, you know,
different cats.

You still on Eighty-Second?

Where else would I be?

You all right?
You look all right.

You can't imagine
what I've done to survive.

Are you sleeping, Lee?

Fits and starts.

I was just supposed to be...

something more than this.

I mean, wasn't I?

That's why you
wanted to see me.

No, I needed to see you.

I'm having a crisis here.

And you know me.

No, Lee.

There was always
a wall between us.

I couldn't penetrate.

I tried.

You know,
God damn it, Elaine,

I tried more with you
than anybody else ever.

No, you didn't.

You did everything you could
to keep your distance.

You lied,
you drank constantly,

you were self-involved.

Well, I didn't say
I was perfect.

You were so miserable.

- No, I wasn't.
- Yes, you were.

I tried to get you
to trust me.

Certain point,
I just stopped trying.

Yeah, I wish you hadn't.

Well, you don't have
to go yet. Come on.

Lee, it's not my job anymore.

To talk you off the ledge.
It's exhausting.

I got a class.

Let them authenticate
all they want.

They're real. Don't settle.

Lee. Are we
gonna talk about it?

I mean, I'm really sorry.

Okay, afterwards,
you come here immediately.

I'll do good. You'll see, Lee.
I'll make it up to you.

And get a written receipt.

I wanna know
how much you get paid.

Oh, come on.

How long are you gonna
freeze me out, huh?

I trusted you.

I don't know if you've noticed
this, but I don't do that.

And you have reminded me
why that is.

Lee, I took care
of your cat. I swear.

It was an accident,
and I feel awful.

We will continue
to work together

because I have
no other option.

But we are not friends,

and I don't think
we actually ever were.

Lee. Lee.

We will meet in public,

and you will
not fuck this up like

you fuck everything else
up in your life.

You will sell those papers,
you will get the money,

you will bring me a receipt.

I'll be back after the sale.

Aren't they fabulous?

I just know someone
is going to treasure them.

I need another one.

That's debatable.

How much do you want for them?

I was thinking $300, each.

Actually, do you have cash?

That's 500.


Thank you so much.

- Come on, right here.
- Mm-mmm.

No. I'm waiting for somebody.

It's clearly marked.

I'm pretty sure
they were stolen,

but I didn't want to ask.

She asked me to sell them
for her as a favor...

so, I said,
"Of course I will."

As a favor?

You don't accept a cut?

Well, a small one.

Very small.

You know what?

Oh, I got him. That's...

Lee Israel? I'm Agent Solanas.
This is Agent Doyle.

We're here to deliver
a subpoena

to appear before
a federal grand jury.

Your appearance is scheduled
for two weeks from today.

We've intercepted
your employee, Jack Hock.

He's cooperating,

as are the dealers
you've done business with.

Mr. Hock requests

that you do not try
to reach him

or telephone or harass him
in any way.

You are forbidden to destroy

any evidence
pertinent to this case.



Can't say I blame you.

Looking at this stuff,
it is pretty bad.

We're probably looking at
some time behind bars.

That said, these letters
are pretty incredible.

I especially enjoyed
the Louise Brooks.

Thank you.

Look, if you want me
to represent you...

there are a few things
you're going to

have to do before
appearing in court.

Like what?

Clean up your act.

First, you're getting a job.
Any kind of job.

Second, you're enrolling
in community service

to show just how
penitent you are.

What? What kind of service?

Something with children.

Ah, Jesus. No.

Animals, then.
Sick people, whatever.

You have to show that
you've turned over a new leaf.

And you've got to go to AA.

Can I ask you a question?

Everyone I sold to...

do you think they all know?

Yeah. They all probably know.

But right now, that's
the least of your worries.

She is seeking employment

with Scholastic Books
as a copy editor

and has already put in

over 40 hours
of community service

at a cat shelter.

Before I render my verdict,

have you,
in the last 24 hours,

used drugs, pills, alcohol...

anything that could
affect your ability

to understand what's going on?

Uh, no, ma'am.

Have you anything additionally

you'd like to say
to the court

before I offer your sentence?


"I have been living in a state
of enormous guilt

"and anxiety for many months."

Not so much because

I felt like what
I was doing was wrong

but because I was just always
afraid of being found out.

I can't specifically say that
I regret any of my actions.


I don't.

I mean, in many ways, this has
been the best time of my life.

I mean, it's the only time...

recently, that I can remember
being proud of my work.

But it wasn't really
my work, was it?

I mean...

if I had put in
my work...

then I would've been opening
myself up to criticism.

And I'm too much
of a coward to do that.

Then I lost my cat.

She was probably the only soul

that truly loved me.
Maybe ever.

And I lost my friend...

who may have been
an idiot, but he...

he tolerated me.

And he was nice
to have around.

And I think I have
realized that I am...

...not a real writer.

And that...

...I think, in the end, it...

...I would say,
was not worth it.

I would say that.


"I will accept the judgment
of the court as valid

"and fulfill whatever sentence
I may receive...

"...with full understanding
that I have earned...

"...said punishment."

Lee Israel,
the court sentences you

to five years' probation

plus six months' house arrest.

You may only leave home to go

to and from your place
of employment,

your work in the community,

and to Alcoholics Anonymous

You are not to leave the state
or consort with felons,

and you are to pay restitution

to your victims
within your means.

Thank you, Your Honor.

This is a good thing.

Very fair.





Thanks for coming.

It was quite inconvenient.

I moved some meetings around.

Can I get you a drink?
I'm buying.

Not today.

My new meds make gin
taste like mouthwash.

Takes the fun out of it.

I guess you cut a deal?

Ratting on me worked out?

Three years' probation.

At least you're out and about.

So are you.

No. I'm at an AA meeting
on Tenth Street right now.

Criminals at large.

I can't imagine
what was so important

that Lee Israel
swallowed her pride

and asked to meet me,
so spit it out.

I've been thinking about
writing a new book.

About what happened, and...

what I did, and...

about you,
if you'll let me.

Like hell I will.

What will my boyfriend say

if he heard about
my shadier dealings?

I doubt our crimes even rank

on your top ten
of shady dealings.

Fair enough.

But I don't want a book
out there about me.

I'm a very private person.

I need to do something,
and I need to write again.


What about Fanny... Price?

God damn. It's Brice.

As terrifying
as it sounds, I...

I think I'm supposed
to be writing about us.

I'm still mad at you,
you know.

You treated me like shit.

I don't think you're
a very nice person, Lee.

I would agree with you.

I suppose you
might be mad at me as well.

Well, I mean, if you didn't
look so decrepit, I might be.

Yeah, well...

it was gonna catch up
to me eventually.

You did fuck your way
through Manhattan, I mean...

I'd like that on my tombstone.

Could you make me 29?

With perfect skin.

Don't make me
sound stupid. Hmm?

Thank you.

I'm late for a board meeting.

My driver's waiting.

Life of a millionaire.


I had such an urge
to trip you just then.


You're a horrid cunt, Lee.

You too, Jack.

Jack would not tell me
what story he'd cook up

to explain his possession
of the letters.

Nor would
he take any suggestions

from me about a backstory.

It didn't finally matter,
because he was succeeding.

He always got
the price he asked for.

His narratives,
whatever they were,

kept my rent paid

and his mouth full
of large, gorgeous,

extraordinarily white teeth.

I have a friend's
birthday coming up.

You know, he would love to own

that Dorothy Parker
in the window.

Ah. She's a beauty, isn't she?

Can I ask you how much
a letter like that runs?

We're asking 1,900,
framed and matted,

and it comes with
a letter of authenticity.

Does the letter
of authenticity

come with a letter
of authenticity?


I can assure you
it's the real thing.

No one can write
like Miss Parker could.

Not before and not since.

My dear sir, I offer
my droopy salutations

from the great beyond.

I understand that you are
selling my personal letters

to the tune
of nearly two grand.

To think poor Lee Israel

received a tiny fraction
of that sum

when she sold them to someone,
who then sold them to you.

I dearly hope that this letter

will not affect
the selling price

of your valuable artifact.

As I most famously muttered

mere moments
after my cremation,

"Darling, excuse my dust."

Yours, Dorothy Parker.

Subtitles by explosiveskull