2018 hasn’t been an awesome year for Melissa McCarthy. Life of the Party and The Happytime Murders both under performed at the box office and got slammed by critics all over the world. It seemed like she ran out of ideas and became a one-trick-pony after getting an Oscar-nomination for her role in Bridesmaids in 2011. But near the end of 2018, we get Can You Ever Forgive Me? and McCarthy in a more serious role. Suddenly she’s the talk of the town to be the underdog this awards season.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? tells the story of Lee Israel – a heavy-drinking writer who’s moderately successful biographies nowadays are worth less than $5. Through some very interesting circumstances she finds herself a new career as a forger of celebrity letters. She enjoys the rewards and it also starts to boost her ego and writing skills.
Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) directs a script co-written by Nicole Holofcener. Both create such a flawed anti-heroine who’s also funny and frustrating at times. Israel wants to be recognized for who she is as a writer and not for being famous, unlike “that sell-out” Tom Clancy. McCarthy portraying her character’s arrogance and frustration is spot on. She inhabits this role like no one else ever could. She is Lee Israel. This is the dramatic role the always comedic McCarthy was bound to play, and it will for sure reward her with some exciting new opportunities.
Then we have Richard E. Grant. His acting has never been stronger. His career has been brilliant for over two decades with very diverse roles. This film will shoot him into another chapter of his already impressive career.
If you look at interviews of McCarthy and Grant, you can already tell they have great chemistry and it shows on screen. They share a friendship. Their characters connect in a way because they sense each other’s loneliness, the dreams they never achieved.
The ’90s atmosphere in this film is dusty – the bookshops, the apartments, the bars, the snowy streets of New York, even the two main characters. But just spending time with a drunken mischievous McCarthy and Grant is a time well spent.