Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant) – Melissa McCarthy is one of America’s most liked actresses. Known mostly for her zany roles in TV’s Gilmore Girls and later in movies like The Heat, Spy, Tammy and Bridesmaids (for which she was nominated for an Academy Award), McCarthy often returns to TV, most notably portraying Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live. She stretched out to a more serious role in St. Vincent with Bill Murray, the actor whose early career looked most like hers. Both are the absolute best at playing serious parts with comedic overtones and that glint in their eyes that signals the audience that the comedian is still underneath the surface.
Can You Forgive Me? Is an exceptional small film based on the true story of Lee Israel, a semi-successful author whose career tanked after writing a couple of biographies. McCarthy plays Lee as a pathetic, desperate, blocked writer who just needs a good idea and a break to jump back onto the best seller’s list. She possesses virtually no social skills. No friends. A rotting apartment. An agent (Jane Curtin – great to see her) who won’t return her calls. Sounds like the author version of Tootsie but this isn’t a comedy.
McCarthy finds refuge in forgery when she accidentally finds a copy of a letter from Fanny Brice. She sells it for some money to treat her ailing cat but then realizes that she can combine her writing skills with her desperation to create fake documents for money. Surprisingly, there is a vibrant market for such letters. Lee prospers … until she doesn’t. When she finds out that she is being investigated, she turns to a new drinking buddy, Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), a gay Brit who seemingly has no job but who is terminally entertaining. Jack becomes her courier and proves to be amazingly adept at getting even more money for the forgeries. That works right up to the time that it doesn’t.
Lee and Jack are losers and loners in a world full of them. They have nothing but they have each other. Even that isn’t enduring for reasons you’ll find out.
Can You Forgive Me? is a really good independent film with first-rate performances. Both McCarthy and Grant grabbed Oscar nominations even though the movie did not. It is the sleeper movie of the year if you don’t count the foreign film, Roma. By all means, find this gem. (It is not playing in many theaters, but you can find it on Amazon Prime for $14.99.)