Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Lit Duo


10 September 2018| No Comments on Can You Ever Forgive Me?     by Sean Chavel


Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant are the center of an offbeat docudrama Can You Ever Forgive Me? that’s about two accomplices in forgery. It’s not often a film about a couple of shaggy, desperate New Yorker lives can not only hold your attention but captivate. Yet there’s a certain rascally charm, a finely tailored intimacy to the story, and it captures the pseudo-intellectual literary air of early 1990’s Manhattan.

McCarthy is the frumpy crankypants Lee Israel, a down on her luck writer who just got fired, at home has a sick cat, and evidently so looks for handouts from anywhere while she tries to write a biography on Fanny Brice. Her agent (Jane Curtin) has to repeatedly tell her that nobody cares who Fanny Brice is, and refuses to go to bat for her to get a publishing house to give her ten thousand advance payment money for the book. She hasn’t a friend, until Lee reconnects with Jack Hock (Grant), a penniless dilettante who also lives on handouts.

A local bookshop buys Lee’s artifact letter of Fanny Brice, which lends Lee a mischievous idea. She will manufacture old letters by literary legends like Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker, and more, and sell them to book shop owners and literary collectors. Lee becomes grossly overpaid, and so she continues cranking out old letters with zeal conspiring with Jack Hock in the scam – and then things go afoul when one shopkeeper catches on.

I like the idea of making movies about outsiders and misfits, yet they rarely ever work, because there tends to be burdensome – and unentertaining – reasons why they are rejects. McCarthy and Grant make a heck of a team, in spite being unapologetically disorderly and antisocial. They’re wrecks, but there also persuasive pathological liars. This really also feels like a crime that could only have been committed as late as the 1990’s, before the internet era, and that gives it some heft and poignancy. Director Marielle Heller rips things along, and the editing is tiptop. And as far as crime pics go, this one’s pretty atypically cozy.     

107 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “Withnail and I” (1987); “Barfly” (1987); “Trumbo” (2015); “American Animals” (2018).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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