Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
This film is based on the true story of Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a washed-up author struggling to survive in New York City. She’s become so irrelevant that even her agent (Jane Curtin) doesn’t believe in her anymore. The film features a small cast, but the performances are powerful enough to make the viewing experience rich and personal.
Israel hits bottom in 1991 and is forced to sell a cherished note from Katharine Hepburn. Then, she finds old letters by actress Fanny Brice in a library book and sells them as well. When Israel sees there is a market for such things, she trains herself to forge pieces from other late notables and recruits an old friend, Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), to help unload them on unwitting dealers. She gains confidence and satisfaction from the fact that her forgeries are so clever. “I was a better Dorothy Parker than Dorothy Parker was,” she later claims upon deciding to write a book about her charade.
I was intrigued watching Israel’s lack of remorse as she repeatedly dupes kind people, including Anna (Dolly Wells), a trusting bookshop owner. It’s also interesting to see how eagerly dealers believe in Israel’s fakes and come up with collectors to buy them without any vetting. You can guess what happens next and likely will find yourself cringing a bit as the other shoe drops.
Should you see it? Yes, McCarthy and Grant are well worth it. —J.J.
Viewed at Marcus Ronnie’s Cinema