Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Film Review

Melissa McCarthy is best known for her comedy work but has recently starred in a string of duds such as The Happytime Murders and Life of the Party so it is a pleasure to see her being given the opportunity to do drama and show that she’s amazing at it, as her recent Oscar nomination proves.

In Can You Ever Forgive Me? McCarthy stars as Leonore ‘Lee’ Israel, who wrote profiles and biographies about high-profile women before her career took a downturn. Unable to pay rent but determined not to get a standard 9-to-5, Israel, inspired by one of Fanny Brice’s old letters, decides to forge old typed letters written by literary figures and sell them to collectors as the real thing. She creates correspondence from the likes of Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker and uses her camp, alcoholic friend Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) to help her sell them as the genuine article.

The film, directed by The Diary of a Teenage Girl’s Marielle Heller, is not like your traditional biopic in that it isn’t so dramatic and serious. It is aware that what Israel did was bad and unlawful, but there are worse crimes – so it really focuses on Israel as a person and her relationships, not just her forging. The movie is lighter and funnier than I expected, not just because of her naughty exploits but because of Israel’s caustic personality – she doesn’t like people and isn’t concerned about pretending otherwise – and the wonderful character of Jack.

McCarthy is fantastic in the part. She deserves her Oscar nomination and it makes me happy to see that she’s been given a meaty, dramatic part like this after a string of comedic duds. I don’t want her to stop doing comedy altogether but this proves she is capable of both. Her performance is serious and dramatic but her character is so cold, mean and stubborn that you can’t help but laugh. You don’t exactly support her because her antics are unacceptable but you can understand why she was desperate enough to do it.

Grant is equally amazing. Besides Spice World, this is probably my favourite role of his (I dislike Withnail & I, so sue me) and I enjoyed his performance so much. His character is an enigma yet so much fun, so full of life and like a tonic to Israel’s sour personality and their dialogue together is such a joy to behold.

The script by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty is smart, funny and moving and is brought to life by these impressive actors, who are supported by the wonderful Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin and McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone, among others. It is an intriguing true story and hard to believe that these buyers/collectors fell for her work! By its very nature, it’s not as exciting a story as some other real-life crime biopics but it is fun, entertaining and a fascinating character study so I highly recommend.

In cinemas Friday 1st February 

Trackbacks

  1. […] you’ve already read my review then you’ll know how much I loved this film, about biographer-turned-forger Lee Israel, […]

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  2. […] me. She was brilliant in it. I’m happy for Melissa McCarthy getting another nomination for Can You Ever Forgive Me? She was very good but she was never going to win. Then Olivia Colman and Lady Gaga for The […]

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