Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

can you ever forgive me poster 2018 movie melissa mccarthy
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good performances, interesting story

Slow pacing

Movie Info

Movie Name: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Studio: Archer Gray

Genre(s): Drama/Comedy

Release Date(s):  September 1, 2018 (Telluride Film Festival)/October 19, 2018 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

can you ever forgive me lee israel melissa mccarthy forger

Well…things aren’t going as I hoped

Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) is a biographer suffering from writer’s block, and even if she could write, no one is buying.  With bills piling up and a sick cat, Lee is desperate.  Lee discovers that original content from classic writers and actors brings high demand on the market…but soon Lee’s name is no good and Lee and her friend Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) must take bigger and more desperate risks.

Directed by Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a drama-comedy biopic of Lee Israel and an adaption of the Lee Israel 2008 biographic Can You Ever Forgive Me?:  Memoirs of a Literary Forger.  The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and was released to positive reviews.  The film earn Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (McCarthy), Best Supporting Actor (Grant), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The whole Lee Israel thing is an odd event.  You have a woman willfully engaging in an illegal act to con high-end collectors.  As a collector, the idea of being ripped off by someone like Israel is maddening, but also as a collector, the idea that she’d risk damaging the actual items is upsetting.  Can you find sympathy with a grump, mean-spirited, alcoholic criminal?  The movie attempts to do this and succeeds somewhat.

can you ever forgive me melissa mccarthy

I do good work

The movie isn’t necessarily out to vindicate Israel which is why it only succeeds somewhat.  It recognizes that she’s dealing in criminal actions, and it recognizes that she’s not a nice person.  Even when she faces the music, she doesn’t entirely clean up as she’s supposed to.  She’s messy, sloppy, and cruel to the people around her…even those who try to help.  She does have reasons to be jaded.  She is writing a genre that no one is buying while those writing what could be considered “throw-away” novels are being paid top dollars…it isn’t fair, but life often isn’t fair.

Melissa McCarthy revels in Lee’s grumpy and angry demeanor.  The movie jettisons her goofy comedy roles but does have a glimmer of her breakout role in Bridesmaids in Lee’s crassness.  Richard E. Grant also steals his scenes as Lee’s gay “frenemy” who has both characters second guessing each other.  Two con artists can be friends but can’t trust each other.

can you ever forgive me richard e grant melissa mccarthy ending

We had a good run…

The movie is mostly gray and dreary like Lee’s mood.  It is cold and dark, but there are scenes where Lee is mentally doing better and the movie brightens and warms (like the Brooklyn Bridge and park scenes near the end).  It seems to reflect Lee’s perception of the world and when the world looks up (as for many people suffering from depression), the world looks better.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? tells a story of an unlikely “hero”.  It does it without necessarily redeeming her because it shows that she did hurt people.  There was criticism of her novel because she did profit from the telling of her story of crime…much to the chagrin of victims of her lies.  With Israel’s passing in 2014, the whole of her actions can be told with less criticism and more clarity.  Lee Israel might have actually loved her great crime on screen.

Related Links:

The 91st Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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