Lit­er­ary hoax served in abra­sive com­edy

Geelong Advertiser - - MOVIES - LEIGH PAATSCH

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?.

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