CAN yOu EVEr fOrGiVE ME? (Marielle Heller) casts Melissa McCarthy – perfectly – as Lee Israel, the best-selling author who found her true calling in the early 90s as a literary fraudster, writing fake correspondence from the likes of Dorothy Parker and Noël Coward and selling it to collectors for quick cash. Because she was operating in the pre-internet days – and because she was a damn good writer – she managed to get away with it for quite a while. It’s your basic rise-andfall narrative, given snap and style by screenwriters Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty (though I suspect the more cutting observations about entrenched sexism in the New York literary scene are the former’s contribution) and a fine sense of period texture by director Heller (The Diary Of A Teenage Girl). Heller also gives Richard E. Grant the plum role of Israel’s enabler/accomplice Jack Hock, whom he plays as an older, even more rotted version of the shambling alcoholic he embodied in Withnail & I. Grant and McCarthy have a disreputable chemistry that works like cognac on a winter’s night, warming the film from the inside out. It’s okay to get drunk on it. 107 min. NNNN (Norman Wilner)
Melissa McCarthy (right) tries to sell Dolly Wells a fake letter in Can You Ever Forgive Me?