Can You Ever Forgive Me?

This is a unique, dark R-rated film that lovingly portrays unlikeable people.

Can You Ever Forgive MeCan You Ever Forgive Me?, directed by Marielle Heller, is a movie focusing on two people who are trying to make sense out of their miserable existence. Melissa McCarthy throws away her dedication to comedy as she plays Lee Israel, a successful biographer who woke up one day without any talent. She is an angry woman who lives alone in an apartment in Manhattan with not a friend in the world, and even her cat keeps his distance. She drinks around the clock for companionship.

So deep in debt that she is behind on her rent as well as having her cat rejected by a vet for needed services unless she pays the bill up front, she angrily confronts her publicist Marjorie (Jane Curtain) to get an advance on a proposed new book. Marjorie curtly dismisses her, telling Lee that she needs to find another occupation to support herself.

Again turning to booze as her only ally, she discovers the ability to forge documents from famous artists that she can sell to various brokers. She is astonished to discover that she can earn a good deal of money as long as she demands to be paid in cash. A smile finds a way to return to her bitter face.

But what makes this movie such a wonderful cinematic experience is the character played by Richard E. Grant, a flamboyantly gay Manhattan resident known as Jack Hock. They meet in a bar and Grant’s Hock is one of the most acerbic characters to have graced the big screen in a long time. Having previously demonstrated his talents in such excellent films as Jackie (2016), Logan and Their Finest, both released in 2017, Mr. Grant proceeds to become a welcomed assistant to Ms. McCarthy as they find the ability to make very good money by refining their talents at forgery.

This film deals with a true story that is based on a book written by Ms. Israel after her conviction and sentence to a fortunate period of home detention. Ms. Israel gives the best description of herself at sentencing to the trial judge when she describes her criminal activities as some of the most rewarding moments of her life. As an example of a felon who experienced no regret, she could do nothing more than look through the window as she passed Anna Lee’s (Dolly Wells) office, a broker that she repeatedly swindled despite the fact that Anna clearly developed a personal affection for Lee.

In closing, let me simply say that the performance of Richard Grant will make him a challenging candidate in the Oscar category of Best Supporting Actor. When it became evident to Lee that her flamboyant co-conspirator made a living off the streets of New York City, she told him in their last meeting that he should simply be known as a man who “f—ked his way through the streets of Manhattan.” As Grant’s Hock stood to walk away, he smiled and said, “Just have that line put on my tombstone.”