REVIEW: ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me’ is a fantastic dramedy

I can certainly forgive Melissa McCarthy for “The Happytime Murders” thanks to her work here.

“Can You Ever Forgive Me” is a movie taking place in the early 1990s. The film follows Lee Israel (McCarthy), an author whose main focus are biographical books. Unfortunately, the line of work hasn’t exactly produced much in earnings.

Behind on rent, and with not much new income, she decides to sell an old letter by another writer. Upon doing so, she learns that it warrants some good money. As a result, she comes up with a scheme to forge these types of letters and sell them to the highest bidder. The process is successful initially but her work ends up leaving a paper trail for law enforcement.

“Forgive Me” is a very smart and witty feature about a normally lawful person falling into the world of crime. What’s most impressive about the movie is its ability to balance its humorous moments with its more dramatic ones. Both aspects are integral to the film working and they each coincide and complement each other well.

As the story goes on, the dramatics of Israel’s criminal, er, enterprise, are interesting and hook an audience in quite well. The film’s more comedic elements, meanwhile, give the movie an intelligent charm.

The film fitting in both genres so well is largely thanks to McCarthy, who gives a brilliant performance as Israel. The character is an artist who believes in the work she does, and is cynical about the direction the writing profession is going. However, her stance is hurting her career and she’s down on her luck with little money.

Her passion which has ultimately led to her financial desperation is set up very well and gets an audience to root for her. While she can be unpleasant, the Israel on screen mainly just wants to do what she loves and find some success through her passion. Her drive is somewhat admirable and one can be empathetic toward her struggles.

McCarthy nails this in her onscreen work and as a result, an audience is able to actually want her to succeed, even when the path the character takes is criminal. It’s also quite noticeable that the character was written to be quite sharp, and McCarthy also captures this cleverness.

Just as integral to the picture’s success, though, is Richard Grant, who play’s Israel’s friend Jack. Grant is so damn good in the film, portraying his character’s positivity quite well and it becomes a perfect opposite for Israel’s cynicism. He is very deserving of any supporting actor honors that come up this award season.

“Can You Ever Forgive Me” is also a very nice looking feature. One noticeable aspect was the color palette, with the film having a rather faded look. It so perfectly captured the mood of the characters and the story as a whole.

It should be noted that the film was a bit anticlimactic, though, in that the criminal aspects fo Israel’s life were resolved a bit too quickly. Plus, I wouldn’t say this captured the whole ‘journey of a passionate artist’ thing  as well as, say, “Midnight in Paris” or “Inside Llewyn Davis.” However, it’s still a solid picture with an engaging story and two stellar performances. 4.25 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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