Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin
Director: Marielle Heller
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: In CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?, Melissa McCarthy stars as Lee Israel, the best-selling celebrity biographer (and cat lover) who made her living in the 1970’s and 80’s profiling the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estée Lauder and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. When Lee found herself unable to get published because she had fallen out of step with the marketplace, she turned her art form to deception, abetted by her loyal friend Jack (Richard E. Grant).
After watching Can You Ever Forgive Me?, I can tell you with absolute confidence that this is the film that Melissa McCarthy needed to be in right now. After a couple of rough attempts at dumb comedies earlier this year, McCarthy shows us that she has some real talent in roles where she is not typecast as the fat, clumsy woman. In the film like this where the humor is much more clever and relies much more on the chemistry between McCarthy and Grant, McCarthy shows that she can act with the best of them. A charming story powered by two incredible performances, Can You Ever Forgive Me? needs to be one of movies we keep an eye on as the major awards creep closer and closer.
The film follows Lee Israel (McCarthy), a struggling author who has switched over from writing her own stories to forging letters from famous authors and selling them for major profit. While initially only writing a few for the sake of catching up on her outstanding debts, Israel develops a real talent for these forgeries and decides to keep going until she can no longer do so. One of the main things that truly stands out is just how well-structured the character of Israel is, which helps McCarthy successful show us the struggles she is going through. While she is our protagonist, she is much more of an anti-hero who does bad things to solve her immediate problems. I have seen many movies where these characters are supposed to be seen as sympathetic, but you end up hating them. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is cut from a similar cloth of movies like Goodfellas where you want the story to keep going and you want to see the, “bad guys,” win. This would not have been possible without a script that gave McCarthy the room to breathe and be herself. The humor is smart and situational, the scenarios feel real, and the character development of McCarthy is authentic compared to the world around her character. Outside of McCarthy and the story, I was absolutely blown away by Grant’s performance. Grant plays Jack Hock, Israel’s only friend and someone who joins her criminal enterprise when it starts to grow. We know that he is a slimy, despicable person who leeches off of others for his own gain, but he is incredibly charismatic and charming to the point where it does not bother us. We are really supposed to disapprove of his actions and the way he only thinks about himself, but it is really hard to do so due to Grant’s likability. As with McCarthy, Grant benefits from a script that tailors to his skill set and allows him to act with his full potential and embrace the character he is playing. This movie was able to easily showcase an interesting and dynamic relationship in a way that very few can and as a result, we got to see two fantastic performances that are sure to make a splash in the next few months.
Overall, I was getting pretty sick of McCarthy’s movie choices as of late, and it is great to see her back on the right path. I understand every once in a while you may need to make a bad film since it helps pay the bills, but she is back on track in Can You Ever Forgive Me? I am curious how much traction this movie will get at the major awards, but wherever it ends up it certainly deserves the recognition it has been getting so far.
Overall Score: 8.5/10