Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) is an out of luck author suffering with writer’s block and casual alcoholism. When her books stop selling and her agent stops taking her calls, she quickly runs out of both money and other people’s sympathies. Forced to sell off her belongings, she knows something has to change. Whilst researching a biography on former dance hall queen Fanny Brice, Lee finds two personal letters to Brice. Taking them to a local book dealer (Dolly Wells) she discovers there’s money to be made in selling the personal letters of dead celebrities – however the contents need to be spicy enough to attract the really big bucks…
…a bitter sweet comedy drama about a writer who loses her principles.
Based on real-life events, ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me’ is a bitter sweet comedy drama about a writer who loses her principles only to later discover who she really is. Grumpy, grouchy and needy by turn, Lee Israel’s character is the role that Melissa McCarthy has been needing for a while. Often in such overblown comedies as ‘Life of The Party’, this ‘Saturday Night Live’ stalwart has never been short of talent, just the right vehicle to get her career to the next level. This time, deliberately down played and squalidly withdrawn in her own misery, Lee is the part that gives Melissa McCarthy’s ‘character actress’ genuine voice. Aided and abetted by an ever on-form Richard E. Grant as her louche drinking partner-cum-accomplice Jack Hock, the two form an endearing ensemble that you’ll really want to invest into.
That said, with a strong field in this year’s Oscars, it’s unlikely that McCarthy’s best actress nomination will turn into a golden statuette. Nor will Richard E. Grant’s much-overdue recognition follow either. However in steering a careful course between comedy and drama, ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ is a softly spoken delight that glowers at you from the end of your cinema considerations rather than ever shriek its presence.
So, pull up a bar stool. Give it a chance. Don’t let your misgivings be a deterrent. Finally finding her feet in a welcome, straight-yet-tragic role, Melissa McCarthy can be forgiven her rash of noisy performances for one that would gladly write its own review.