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Midvale Journal

Dan's Review: "Can You Ever Forgive Me? a welcome change for Melissa McCarthy

Nov 01, 2018 05:47PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me? - © 2018 Fox Searchlight.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight)

Rated R for language including some sexual references, and brief drug use.

Starring Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin, Anna Deavere Smith, Stephen Spinella, Ben Falcone, Shae D'Lyn, Michael Cyril Creighton, Kevin Carolan, Marc Evan Jackson, Tim Cummings, Christian Navarro, Joanna Adler.

Written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, based on the book by Lee Israel.

Directed by Marielle Heller. 



Some actors are slaves of their own style. Melissa McCarthy is one of those performers, relying on the same caustic delivery, laced with profanity. She’s made several films playing the same, basic character, most of them forgettable. Her latest film Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a break away from those zany comedies and a refreshing change.

It’s the true story of Lee Israel (McCarthy), a once successful biography author down on her luck. Alcoholism and a repulsion from other people have rendered her unemployed with little prospects for being published again. Her problems include an agent (Jane Curtain) who refuses to answer her calls, her cat is sick, her rent is way past due. Desperate for a financial rescue, Lee chances upon a letter signed by Fanny Brice. Through a friendship with a bookshop owner named Anna (Dolly Wells), she discovers that such letters are worth money, and more so if they include witty remarks or unique insight. Lee decides to forge the signatures of famous dead authors, actors and public figures while impersonating their style and creating false letters. Her plan works very well, making a lot of money. When antique collectible dealers begin to ask questions, Lee turns to her friend Jack (Richard E. Grant), who fences the fake letters on her behalf. She even resorts to creating copies of real letters and swaps them through clandestine means, with the intent of selling the “real thing” to collectors. Eventually, the law catches up with Lee, and she is forced to face the consequences.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a well-made film with excellent performances from McCarthy and Grant. It’s refreshing to see her expand her range into a role that digs a little beyond simple sight gags and profanity. McCarthy reminds us that she is, after all, a gifted actor with the ability to emote real feelings. Her portrayal of Israel doesn’t make the failed forger all that sympathetic, either. It’s a character most people wouldn’t like; self-centered, gruff, foul-mouthed and mean. Yet, behind that tough exterior was a woman in pain, trying to make her way in a word that no longer regarded her talents.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is an authentic film about a phony operator, and it’s an enjoyable experience.


Can You Ever Forgive Me? Trailer