Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Melissa McCarthy is known to movie fans for being the intense comedic actress that can have you rolling on the ground laughing in a second’s notice. The American actress showed a dramatic side of her in the 2014 film St. Vincent, but she’s able to stretch her drama chops in Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is the true story of Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a biographic author who falls on hard times in the early 90s. It is only when she discovers the money that circulates around collectibles and memorabilia of celebrities that she hatches a plan to forge salacious letters from authors and actresses. Israel’s skill at capturing the tone and voice of her biographies proves invaluable in her forging.
The film takes on a slow pace that might be the first sign of putting off most mainstream audiences. Certainly this will shock anyone expecting the tone and rhythm that McCarthy’s other films had. But once the unhurried tempo settles in, we see that it proves purposeful to give realism to the story. Based on the description of Israel’s endeavors, it would almost be too crazy to be true; thus a paused narrative helps see these events unfold at an organic pace.
This is Heller’s second feature film in the directing chair (she’s directed TV as well), her first film was the 2015 indie darling Diary of a Teenage Girl, which dealt with the sexual awakening of a teenage girl. This second film would seem to be the complete opposite, dealing with the career sufferings of a middle-aged woman. However, the common theme that runs through both of Heller’s films is the want to be accepted, be it sexually in her first film or professionally in this second one. Heller gives this theme a tragic element that helps viewers relate and sympathize with the protagonists, regardless of their dubious methods to achieve their goal.
McCarthy is able to give not only one of the most different performances of her career, but one of the strongest as well. Many plaudits will go to Richard E. Grant who plays an accomplice and friend to McCarthy’s Israel; but the British actor got the showier part of the two. McCarthy brings about a carefully crafted performance that is more about what one doesn’t see. The subtleties in each of McCarthy’s sighs or quips, brings life to a character that would otherwise have been quite unsympathetic to most audiences. The comedic background of the actress also helps with the witty banter that she had with Grant, something that ends up being one of the biggest highlights of the movie.
In the end, Can You Ever Forgive Me? crafts a very capable story that is smartly anchored on the more nuanced performances from a titanic McCarthy and a colorful role Grant; the pair proves to be an understated dynamic duo.