When people complain about how Hollywood doesn’t make certain kinds of movies anymore, those people may be annoying, but they're right. It's movies like Can You Ever Forgive Me? that they’re talking about, and—although the small, sour, very entertaining movie won't be everyone's cup of tea—sitting through it, you can see and feel exactly what we’ve been missing.
Her ex-girlfriend ducks her phone calls, too. Her beloved cat, Jersey, is ailing, and Lee hasn't enough money to pay the vet bills. And just as she looks about ready to make the big slide, she accidentally happens on a means of staying afloat: literary-centric crime. She begins forging celebrity letters, later creating from whole cloth some vibrant, sexy, delicious letters purportedly written by the high-toned, first-class-wits likes of Noël Coward, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, Fanny Brice and more. Collectors snap up her offerings, and she's riding high again.
The film's evocation of a time, place and mood? Impeccable. And as Lee and Jack's illegal literary charade builds and thrives, the movie takes on aspects of a thriller. When will Israel get caught, and how awful will be her punishment? Julianne Moore was originally announced to play Israel with Holofcener directing; “creative differences” ensued, and both exited the project. Instead, Marielle Heller directs with unerring compassion, and the plum role of the unapologetically misanthropic, utterly sympathetic Israel goes to Melissa McCarthy.
Melissa McCarthy so submerges herself into the part that she delivers not only her best film performance, but also one of the performances of the year.
Grant brilliantly partners her, playing another lonely, aging gay character—hanging on to former social and sexual glories, and frantic to keep from falling into the New York shark tank while maintaining some shred of dignity. Like Israel and the way McCarthy plays her, Grant does it without self-pity or fake pathos. Award nominations should shower them both. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a gem: small, candid, tellingly observed, humanistic and—in its specificity and narrow-gauge look at a pair of lonely outsiders—heartbreakingly on target.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
- Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant deliver awards-worthy performances in this powerful gem
- It might not be for everyone—but it should be for most people