Just as no one should never judge a book by its cover, nobody should judge a movie just on a quick glance. Marielle Heller’s ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ is an engrossing examination of what makes us feel alive. Lee Isreal (Melissa McCarthy) is a down on her luck writer who seems to run out of compelling subject matter. Faced with the prospects of a being evicted and a cat who she can’t afford to be seen by a vet, Lee resorts to selling anything to cover her most basic of needs. When researching a new project, she stumbles upon a signed letter from Fanny Brice. When Lee attempts to sell the letter, she quickly learns not only how valuable these letters are but how much more money she’d get if the content was slightly “enhanced”.
‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ is without question the best performance of McCarthy’s career. The comedic actress doesn’t rely on cheap gags or gimmicks to elicit laughter. The brilliance in her performance comes in its simplicity. A look, a half smile, or reaction speaks to how much joy she got everytime she sold one of these letters. While they are literally forgeries, Isreal views them as works of art. Isreal’s life is adrift absent of any purpose or any companionship. These crimes give her life meaning, in the same way, they gave Forrest Tucker’s a purpose in ‘Old Man and the Gun’.
Richard E. Grant portrays Jack Hock (a fellow literary snob who ends up befriending Isreal during her shortlived life of crime). Grant’s charming yet smarmy portrayal is easily one of the best supporting actor performances of 2018. Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty’s narrative is effective and paced where nothing lags during the film. While Brandon Trost’s cinematography isn’t anything out the ordinary, Nate Heller’s score strikes the perfect notes and reflects the mood of the overall piece.
In the end, It’s a shame that ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ hasn’t done better at the box-office but I imagine that will change when the general public hears about the nominations this film is about to receive. I believe that it is a formality that both McCarthy and Grant are nominated for any number of awards. Overall the movie is a B plus and a solid if A I were grading just on the acting alone.