Literary hoax served in abrasive comedy
CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
★★★★ Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin. The copycat that got the cream
IN Can You Ever Forgive Me?, two fantastic performances keep the downbeat true story of an audacious literary hoax on the up-and-up until the bittersweet end.
In an astonishing U-turn from her usual broad and abrasive comic fare, Melissa McCarthy stars as Lee Israel, a prolific but unsuccessful author who has just lost the last book deal keeping her head above water.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
With a New York apartment to keep afloat and a cat to keep alive, Ms Israel needs a fast hustle.
A regulation desk job just won’t do, and not just because she is only a few hundred dollars away from the poverty line.
For Lee is a consummate curmudgeon and a decorated
drunk. She doesn’t have the people skills to stay in the good graces of an employer, and every night ends with her disappearing into an alcoholic fog.
Then comes a Eureka moment, via the acquisition of an antique typewriter and some discoloured paper.
To make some quick and big money, Lee begins forging and selling letters from celebrities of yesteryear.
While the fraud reconnects Lee with her distinct flair for writing, her prolific output soon draws the attention of the FBI.
However, she is enjoying the discipline and the thrill of the deceit too much to stop.
Bizarrely, Lee just goes on to expand her operations by inviting her flamboyant drinking buddy Jack Hock (a magnificent Richard E. Grant) to become her salesman by proxy.
Under the consummate direction of Marielle Heller — in just her second work as a filmmaker — Can You Ever Forgive Me? is funny, poignant, insightful and surprisingly endearing., especially consider-
ing the bleak places it must visit along the way.
Both McCarthy (a clear career-best for her) and Grant (the closest he will ever get to replicating his much-loved work in the cult classic Withnail I) can expect to be serious Oscars contenders when the nominations drop.
The pair’s caustic chemistry is a delight to behold when in conversation.
They are never merely shooting the breeze.
Instead, it is more than likely that they are whipping up an ill wind to blow you out of your seat.
Melissa McCarthy, above with Richard E. Grant, and left with Dolly Wells, is in career-best form as real-life writer Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me?.