A refreshing change from this season’s blockbuster action flicks, romances and thrillers, Can You Ever Forgive? me delivers a combination of quick-witted dialog, clever plot curves and unexpected characters in a lively real-life adventure.
Flailing former bestselling biographer and cat-owning crankypants Lee Israel (a fantastically malevolent and unrecognizably dowdy Melissa McCarthy) butts heads with her uncooperative literary agent (a crisp Jane Curtin in “strict-mom” mode), who pooh-poohs Israel’s latest book pitch. Caught between passion for her project and her dire financial reality, Israel happens upon a famous author-penned letter, which she quickly sells to a local bookstore for $75. Upon this luck she realizes that, with a little creative embellishment, such letter forgery could provide her with a much-needed income stream.
Teaming with local huckster-charmer Jack Hock (a delightfully coy and cagey Richard E. Grant), she embarks on a symbiotic professional forgery friendship that uses the best of her caustic wit and his charisma. And then their scheme begins to unravel, testing alliances and shredding relationships between forger, scammer and their letter-selling marks.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? editor Anne McCabe, speaking with Script Magazine contributor Susan Kouguell about the movie and her collaboration with director Marielle Heller, said she was drawn to project because it was a different type of story than she usually sees. “It was wonderful to work with Mari, who was unafraid to make Lee Israel super grouchy, correct people’s grammar, and so on. Lee was a difficult person and not a typical character you often see on film.”
With a surprisingly tight, fast-paced plot and moderate running time, this mesmerizing true tale — taken from the Lee Israel autobiography of the same title — shines on every level and wraps up neatly. If you liked The Old Man and the Gun with Robert Redford, you’ll enjoy this as well; both have a captivating storyline, well-played characters, thoughtful pacing, entertaining dialog, a believable trajectory and a satisfying ending, seasoned with belly-laugh moments and high-tension scenes. Quick review: A good use of time. You’ll be amused, and you’ll learn a few things about the writer’s experience.
Movie times: click here
Rating: R (for language, including some sexual references)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Directed By: Marielle Heller
Written By: Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty
Run Time: 107 minutes