Mccarthy shines in her first ma­jor dra­matic role

Tweed Daily News - - PULSE - — Vicky Roach

RICHARD E. Grant and Melissa Mccarthy. On pa­per, it would ap­pear to be an un­likely screen cou­pling.

But the louche English­man turns out to be a dis­arm­ingly im­per­fect match for the gifted phys­i­cal come­di­enne in her first re­ally sub­stan­tial dra­matic lead.

They draw the best out in each other. Or rather the worst – in all its shabby, de­fi­ant glory.

Mccarthy ex­cels in “un­sym­pa­thetic” roles. But lib­er­ated from the need to make her au­di­ence laugh, she turns the vol­ume right down, favour­ing nu­ance over ex­ag­ger­a­tion.

Here, the foul-mouthed mis­an­thropy is more lay­ered. You are aware of the lone­li­ness, vul­ner­a­bil­ity and self-doubt un­derneath.

It’s a truth­ful, un­em­bel­lished per­for­mance that doesn’t so much play against type as un­earth its emo­tional foun­da­tions.

I’m guess­ing Lee Is­rael,

the late celebrity bi­og­ra­pher upon whose mem­oir the film is based, would have ap­proved – de­spite the hair, cos­tume and make-up choices, which are less flat­ter­ing than her pho­to­graphs.

Di­rec­tor Marielle Heller (The Di­ary of A Teenage

Girl) tells Is­rael’s story (adapted by Ni­cole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty) with­out whimsy, quirk­i­ness or su­gar coat­ing.

Mccarthy’s ver­sion of the au­thor is plain, brown and an­tag­o­nis­ti­cally mousy. She dresses in off-the-rack men’s jack­ets and trousers.

The only liv­ing crea­ture Is­rael exhibits any real

af­fec­tion to­wards is the an­cient black and white cat who shares her Man­hat­tan apart­ment.

Hav­ing once made it on to The New York Time’s

best-seller list, the strug­gling au­thor is now three months be­hind on her rent.

Painstak­ingly re­searched, well-crafted bi­ogra­phies about in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters have fallen out of fash­ion.

A rag­ing al­co­hol habit, and an un­for­tu­nate dis­po­si­tion to­wards bit­ing the hands that feed her, aren’t help­ing.

In des­per­a­tion, Is­rael sells a pre­cious note from Katharine Hep­burn to a col­lec­tor of mem­o­ra­bilia. And this sparks a shift in ca­reer di­rec­tion.

The skills Is­rael has mas­tered as a bi­og­ra­pher mean she’s re­mark­ably good at im­per­son­at­ing other word­smiths. She be­gins forg­ing let­ters by fa­mous writ­ers such as Noel Cow­ard and Dorothy Parker. If they didn’t ac­tu­ally write her lines, they should have.

Is­rael deems it to be some of the best work of her ca­reer.

But it’s clear to both the char­ac­ter and her au­di­ence that she is liv­ing on bor­rowed time. Can You Ever Forgive Me? doesn’t have a crime caper’s gloss. Is­rael was never go­ing to get away with her crim­i­nal mis­deeds.

Grant wears his char­ac­ter’s reck­less, lusty, self-de­struc­tive his­tory lightly as Is­rael’s partner-in-crime but there’s no doubt that he’s lived it. It’s ar­guably his best, and cer­tainly his most flam­boy­ant, per­for­mance since With­nail and I.

Tak­ing its cue from its two lead­ing gad­flies, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is clear eyed, un­sen­ti­men­tal, and un­ex­pect­edly mov­ing.


MOV­ING: Melissa Mccarthy in a scene from the movie Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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