Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) Poster

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Thoughtful work from a comic actress
Lionesse209 September 2018
After the abysmal Ghostbusters remake and the endlessly panned Happytime Murders, true fans of McCarthy will be glad to see her redemption in this dramatic turn. McCarthy really shines in her role as author Lee Israel and effortlessly portrays the loneliness and insecurity of her character. Her rapport with Grant (and even with the cat) is wonderful, and the writing is clever. This was a surprising and delightful highlight at Telluride this year.
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A Low-key Comic Drama That Showcases Melissa McCarthy's Talent
roblesar9921 September 2018
Going into CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? I had rather low expectations. As I walked out of the theater, I was impressed by the fact that director Marielle Heller and actress Melissa McCarthy (who last starred in the disastrous THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS) had managed to make me care about a film focused on subject matter that I found rather uninteresting to begin with. The concept at the heart of this film will certainly appeal to some, but unfortunately for me, it was the one thing actively working against the film from the get-go. And indeed, during the film's rather dull first ten minutes, I feared that I would be bored for the next hour and a half. Thankfully, however, the introduction of Richard E. Grant's character immediately elevated the film, and his dynamic with McCarthy's Lee Israel (an author who forged hundreds of letters in the 1990s) is undoubtedly the highlight of the film, providing hearty laughs and emotional depth in equal measure. And McCarthy herself proves more than capable of handling a meaty dramatic role that aptly showcases her talent and makes one wish that she didn't star in such films as the aforementioned HAPPYTIME MURDERS. To all the filmmakers out there: McCarthy has talent. Use it.

I might not have been very invested in the film's story, but McCarthy and Grant (who should definitely be in the running for a Best Supporting Actor nomination next year) certainly make CAN YOU EVERY FORGIVE ME? worth watching.
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Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
rockman18221 October 2018
I usually don't end up liking Melissa McCarthy films. She is usually in comedies directed by her husband that aren't funny and have nothing good going for it. I was intrigued in seeing her take on a more serious role and one based on an actual biographical person than a made up "funny" person. I never heard of Lee Israel or the case of her forgery and all the stuff she got away with so I wanted to learn more about this. I enjoyed this film. Its not anything that's gonna stick out when the year ends but for a one time watch its fine, and I can finally say I enjoyed a McCarthy performance quite a bit.

The film is about the real life story of down out of luck biographical author, Lee Israel. Her books aren't doing well and she finds it hard to find inspiration. She can't afford rent or veterinarian care for her sick cat. She decides to forge letters signed and typed up by famous entertainment personalities. At first she finds the scam to be lucrative but eventually the buyers become suspicious and the FBI get involved. The film basically tells the tale of her forgery, until she gets caught, and the aftermath.

McCarthy does a good job here. She doesn't completely disappear into the role but its a believable performance that showcases her best qualities. The film is proficient in mixing comedy with humor and brings forth a rather intriguing plot in a way that keeps you engaged. I already liked Marielle Heller as The Diary of a Teenage Girl was a really interesting and well made film as it was. I think she finds a penchant for storytelling that mixes humor and drama well.

Its easy to see why something like this would have been easy to get away with in an earlier time. Its an idea people wouldn't easily think of. Crime doesn't pay, after a while anyways. If you want to see a solid biopic and an even more solid Melissa McCarthy performance then this is your film. its not anything amazing but its a generally interesting tale about a shady author that you may not have known about.

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A thoughtful, refreshing comedic drama with a stellar central performance
joelbrandt27 October 2018
Stellar performances and strong writing/direction present a refreshing blend of subtly unique outsider characters (Lee and Jack have great chemistry-just wish there was another dialogue with Anna), fringe city settings (dilapidated apartments, smoky bars, dusty bookstores), and-with equal parts humour and tragedy-themes of loneliness, poverty, and the search for happiness (see Lee enjoying the music at the pub). The courtroom climax is a bit contrived, but the bar reunion afterwards is perfect.
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A quirky story that needed to be told.
katiefanatic-791-30691815 October 2018
I saw this film at the San Diego film festival this weekend. What a wonderful story that needed to be told. Morality aside, lee Israel was a genius. The only crimes were committed by the people who fell for it. A quirky black comedy everyone will enjoy, but still full of emotion and heart. Not a lot more I can say, just a great film.
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Want to buy some illusions?
mukava99121 October 2018
The celebrity biographer Lee Israel was in her own way an expert spinner of "alternative facts" and "fake news" decades before both became commonplace in the digital age. Plenty of people who should have known better were willing to accept these "facts" and spread this "news."

Melissa McCarthy reaches an artistic career peak with her performance as the late writer who had been one of the top names in her field in the 70s and early 80s before cultural evolution (or devolution, depending on how you look at it) combined with her own abrasiveness and alcoholism led publishers to shun her work. McCarthy adapts her familiar techniques perfectly to this particular character.

With bills mounting, and facing loss of prestige and income, she began drinking heavily and sinking into a deep, almost psychotic, depression when, half by chance, she discovered that a lot of money could be made by selling letters from famous people like Katharine Hepburn and Fanny Brice. The juicier the content, the more cash they commanded. A talented and witty writer herself, she was familiar enough with the style of the such figures as Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker to forge imitations that convinced professional collectors of their authenticity. Quotes from some of her fakes even ended up in respectable publications. Eventually she resorted to doctoring correspondence which she stole from libraries and selling the results for high prices to sometimes shady dealers. Here was someone who loved and respected outstanding writers and their works but was driven by circumstance to, in effect, falsifying their legacies.

Some of the little touches that deepen our understanding of her character include a scene where she is watching the 1941 film version of "The Little Foxes" and starts delivering the dialogue along with the actors and even accurately imitating Bette Davis's distinctive giggle. Much of the time she is swilling scotch and her ever-so-slightly slurred speech reflects this half-inebriated state.

The movie is shot in New York, making use of locations that still look much as they did more than a quarter of a century ago, when the classic New York of the early-to-mid 20th century, an environment conducive to Israel's own earlier success, had mostly faded out. Julius, the bar where a few key scenes are set, existed then and still exists now. (A conversation therein about her illegal shenanigans is softly underscored by Marlene Dietrich's recording of "Illusions," Dietrich being the subject of one of Israel's Noel Coward forgeries.)

Most of the interiors (book stores, archives, Israel's funky apartment, her agent's more elegant and expansive one) are genuine.

McCarthy is strongly supported by Richard E. Grant in a showy, colorful performance as a fellow alcoholic and partner in crime, Stephen Spinella as a kind but increasingly suspicious rare book dealer, Brandon Scott Jones as a fussy book store clerk who, to his regret, rubs Israel the wrong way, Jane Curtin as her no-nonsense literary agent, Anna Deveare Smith as an old friend and numerous others.

"Can You Ever Forgive Me?", based on and named after Israel's slender autobiographical recap of this period, is a highly intelligent and detailed rendering of a complex human being, by turns endearing and repulsive, brilliant and stupid.
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avenuesf29 October 2018
I started to give this film a "9" rating, but frankly couldn't find anything in it that I felt was less than exceptional. I had never heard of Lee Israel, and Melissa McCarthy's funny and often heartbreaking performance in this film has made me want to read her book that inspired this film and learn more about her. The screenplay has a wonderful way of portraying Israel and Jack Hock as criminals, but at the same time making them both very human and very vulnerable, each in their own way. There is a scene between them near the end that tore me up. I hope this film finds the accolades it deserves, it's great to finally see a gem in a year of remakes, CGI and dull comedies.
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Strong performances buoy true story
gortx30 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers

This fact-based story of biography author Lee Israel's fall into a life of forgery is a fascinating one. Marielle Heller's movie (based largely on Israel's own account) takes a subdued approach. Set in the early 90s, the movie is an almost bucolic version of New York City with warm digital photography by Brandon Trost, and, largely, a retro soundtrack full of Cole Porter, Peggy Lee and Dinah Washington tunes. Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty's script similarly tries to warm up the often prickly Israel (played by Melissa McCarthy).

Despite some success in the past with Biographies of Dorthy Kilgallen and others, Israel's career is in a downward spiral after her flop book on Estee Lauder (the makeup tycoon rushed her own tome out to crush Israel's). Further, Israel's personality is so caustic that she literally has become the crotchety old cat lady - unemployable and unlovable. Fate intervenes when, while researching a future book, Israel stumbles upon authentic letters by well know writers and personalities. She steals them and sells them to collector's. On the personal front, she meets up with a gay habitue of the scene, Jack (Richard E. Grant). Together, they strike up an odd relationship based as much on mutual misery (and drinking) as any real affection. Once Israel discovers that she can pay her bills by selling purloined letters, she sets up an even larger scheme - outright forgery (the amount of outright thievery of legit letters is downplayed).

The screenplay lays things out in a neat and orderly manner, even if none of it really gains any momentum. Heller's direction is fine, if unfussy, but makes some curious choices later in the movie with jarring music choices, including a tune by the hard-rocking The Pixies. Great band, but, those more modern sounds seem to come from nowhere stylistically wise (everything else in the movie remains as subdued as before).

What keeps the movie flowing are the performances. McCarthy has been justly lauded for her sympathetic acting, if a bit too much (some have fallen into the trap of over-praising a "comedian playing straight"; haven't these folks seen here fine work in ST.VINCENT just a couple of years back?). While you can sometimes see the seams in McCarthy's performance, Grant glides with ease. While both individuals are clearly gay, only Grant's Jack gets to be overtly so. I guess it's more 'enjoyable' to the arthouse crowd to watch his flamboyance as opposed to Israel's dowdy repression. Dolly Wells is excellent as a mousy bookseller.

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? tells its basic tale well, even if its a bit too orderly (ironic, because one of the critiques of Israel's own writing was that it lacked personality), but McCarthy and Grant make it worthwhile.
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More misogynistic than merry, this comic thriller is a nifty entertainment with charming performances by McCarthy and Grant.
jdesando8 November 2018
"I'm a 51-year-old who likes cats better than people." Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy)

With a truck load of high-octane Oscar-baiting American films like A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody, it's refreshing to experience a small film like Can You Ever Forgive Me to remember what most European films are like: character driven. Those are films without much CGI and with much sparkling dialogue from actors who enjoy the words rather than the nominations that may follow.

The true-life story of writer and literary forger Lee Israel, a lesbian who had some success forging letters from literati like Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward until she was caught, is embodied by Melissa McCarthy, playing an over-weight, misanthropic alcoholic who has written some well-received. biographies but now is in writer's block.

Tom Clancy is depicted at a Village party as saying the block was invented by writers to justify their laziness. So much for a sweet story about writing.

McCarthy will make you forget her brilliant comic turn and Oscar-nominated role in Bridesmaids as she shows the depressed side of a writer who nevertheless comes through with some witty and funny lines.

On her way to a good living forging she is aided by best friend and fellow alcoholic Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), a character and actor playing admirable second-banana to Lee's sardonic reality. Together they are fun fraudsters until he turns state's evidence on her. When the two are together at a gay bar, Julius's (the actual bar where Lee hung out), I get whiffs of the old screwball comedy where insults quickly parried, are true comedy.

No grand moments appear in this little caper movie, just sweet moments between Lee, the booksellers she defrauds, her loveable cat, and naughty Jack. When she awkwardly deflects the romantic vibe from a sweet bookseller, McCarthy reveals a vulnerable misfit who is nonetheless charming in her loneliness. As I said, Europeans love this kind of slow, character-driven thriller.

You will, too.
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Film Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?/
lucasnochez30 October 2018
Many of the greatest writers to have ever lived wrote their stories and ideas whisked under the heavy smoke of dive bars and speak easy's in New York City; basked in the heavy odour of dried gin, bourbon and whiskey, some of the world's literary genius' stories have been told on the silver screen over the last few decades. Can You Ever Forgive Me?, I can assure you, is not one of those stories.

Yet, even though Lee Isreal (Melissa McCarthy) isn't one of those writers, her story is just as entertaining and captivating as one of the greats.

Isreal, played masterfully by McCarthy, is a frumpy, miserable biographer who has profiled some iconic subjects, including Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Dorothy Kilgallen and Estee Lauder; the later who was easily responsible for destroying her career due to a less than favourable depiction. After her biography of Lauder, Isreal quickly declined into a life of alcoholism, wage labour and loneliness. Can You Ever Forgive Me? picks up right at Israel's multitude of misfortune; showcasing her inability to pay rent, live in less than sanitary living conditions and barely being able to support herself and her sick cat, Jersey.

After being fired from her job for drinking while working, Isreal coincidentally runs into an old acquaintance Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) at a local bar. While the two reminisce of 'pissing' off some guests at a recent party, the two share some stories, drinks and laughs together, and quickly become drinking buddies and eventual friends, much to Isreal's surprise. The chemistry between McCarthy and Grant, although not romantic, is reminiscent of some of the best Bonnie and Clyde type pairings in film in recent memory. While the duo are both very different personalities, thanks to the forceless acting of both nuanced and comedic actors, Lee and Jack bounce off one another's miscreant behaviour as if they were two hyenas; starving on the streets of New York, drunk with possibility, old memories and wonderment. Watching Can You Ever Forgive Me? just for the promise of getting some of the best buddy-con comedy moments of 2018, would be an understatement.

Yet, no matter how many good times and stiff drinks the two share, the realities of the real world comes crumbling down on them in disarraying fashion, especially onto Isreal. Threatened with eviction and the possibility of losing her cat at any given moment due to its declining health, as fate would have it, Isreal stumbles across a genuine letter written by Fanny Brice during her research at a local library. Thinking of it more as a meal ticket than as a collectors piece, Isreal sells the letter to a local bookstore collector Anna (Dolly Wells), thus giving her the brilliant idea to embellish other letters by prominent celebrity figures for monetary gain. Visiting local archives and stealing original letters, embellishing her own letters out of thin air or adding her own flair to already existing letters, Isreal's escapades amounted to over four-hundred forged pieces of work.

While the real-life Israel passed away in 2014, the author's most infamous works still remain to be her criminal activity and the embellishment of these letters, as well as the confessional novel in which this movie is based on. While upon its release, many critics, publishers and the literary community found the novel to be overtly tongue-in-cheek, and merely another form of a meal ticket for Isreal following her criminal activity. Yet, the film itself is a very sombre and lumpy depiction, very carefully avoiding as much spectacle, glamour and embellishment of its own, telling a very straight forward story of a woman who is down on her luck and who's back is against the wall, left with no other options.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? wouldn't be able to exist without the quite exquisite performance of McCarthy; its clear she wasn't copying anyone else while portraying an unpleasant woman with not much positivity in her life. McCarthy, who was recommended to the director by her husband Ben Falcone, already being cast in a role, following the departure of Julianne Moore, puts to rest any unease one may have about a dramatic career for the infamously notorious comedienne, who's rise to fame came quickly and almost unexpectedly in 2011 following a star making performance in Bridesmaids. McCarthy showcases a range of excellent sleight and dry comedic demure with her negativity, slightly giving the audiences glimpses of her dark wit and using it towards an unlikable character whose moral compass isn't very aligned with the realities and expectations of the world.

Alongside her partner in crime, McCarthy's performance is so nuanced yet gripping, it elevates the performances of everyone around her, including Dolly Wells, a naive and charming inherited bookstore owner who also shows some interest in Isreal's talent and personality. Isreal's interaction, including a very emotionally closed off 'date' with Anna at a restaurant are among the most memorable scenes in the film. Luckily for the tone of the film, none of these interactions are overtly showy, which sits respectfully next to the tone of film. Sadly, as we've seen too many times in the past, Academy Awards voters aren't always easily convinced with very subtle and quietly ingenious performances. It's without question that the studio and actress herself will be campaigning for a Best Actress Nomination come this holiday season, but only time will tell whether voters will respond to the actress's transformation.

While Can You Ever Forgive Me? could be a hard film to recommend to others, due mostly to the fact that mentioning McCarthy's name may give general audiences' some sort of physical, goof-ball level comedic performance expectations, no thanks to horrid roles for McCarthy in The Boss and Tammy. Yet, McCarthy proves she is not to be underestimated. Can You Ever Forgive Me? may not prove to be the best performance by an actress in 2018, but it sure as heck may be the most pleasantly surprising; a type of performance audiences can clap and root for come Awards season and for many other comedy actresses in the near future. Here is looking at you Kate McKinnon.
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See this film for amazing performances!
rhmacl5 November 2018
Richard E. Grant for Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor! He made this good film better, and with amazing physical acting, and by inserting a huge dose of humanity. Melissa McCarthy is always high quality and an eternally underappreciated Jane Curtain seals the package.

I found the film very engrossing and it kept my attention. I did NOT walk out of the theater cheering, or weeping, but truly satisfied that I got to witness an extraordinary work of art. And, I learned a lot about 20th century literature.
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See it for the performances
2001ASOfan10 November 2018
McCarthy and Grant shine, but Dolly Wells and Jane Curtin were standouts for me, too. The whole cast and their performances are the reason to see it--if you're like me and enjoy the heck out of fine acting on quiet display in a film.
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aww .. look at the kitty
ferguson-62 November 2018
Greetings again from the darkness. Despite her regular role in all 7 seasons of "Gilmore Girls" and her co-lead role in the 6 season run of "Mike and Molly", it was her raunchy turn in 2011's BRIDESMAIDS that turned Melissa McCarthy into a star. Since then, she has been the lead in a string of comedies written specifically for her: IDENTITY THIEF, THE HEAT, TAMMY, SPY, THE BOSS, and GHOSTBUSTERS: ANSWER THE CALL. Mixed in was an overlooked little film called ST. VINCENT, a Bill Murray vehicle in which Ms. McCarthy first flashed some dramatic chops. With this latest, she shows that she's no one-trick pony, but the character is a bit too narrow, and the material a bit too bland to convince us whether she is up to becoming an Oscar-caliber dramatic lead.

That's not to say her performance isn't noteworthy, because it is. She plays Lee Israel, a real life writer who had success as a celebrity biographer in the 1970's and 1980's, and then turned to a life of crime as a forger of collectible letters. This (mostly) true story of Ms. Israel features Ms. McCarthy in a poorly cut wig, very little make-up and the frumpiest of frumpy clothes. She's also an aggressively bitter person who, in the film's opening scene, get fired from her job in 1991 for drinking scotch at her desk and telling a co-worker to "F-off". Classy, she's not. Her actions and this firing are our indoctrination into her caustic personality.

Director Marielle Heller is no stranger to examining the life of someone who is not so happy, as she is best known as the writer/director of THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL (2015). Her latest is adapted from Lee Israel's memoir by screenwriters Nicole Holofcener (ENOUGH SAID, 2013) and Jeff Whitty. After her firing, Ms. Israel hits desperate times. Her publisher (an always terrific Jane Curtain) tells her that a Fanny Brice biography has no market, and that no one wants to work with Israel anymore ... she has burned every bridge. Fanny Brice and Tom Clancy both take some shots here as Israel tries to defend herself by dragging down others ... a personality trait not uncommon among those who are so miserable in life.

As we watch this alcoholic, slovenly, abrasive person muddle through days - only showing any affection for her pet cat - there is quite a clever scene that could seem like filler were it not for what happens soon afterwards. Ms. Israel is at home watching THE LITTLE FOXES on TV and we see her perfectly mimicking Bette Davis. This ability to imitate others leads her into a career path of forging and selling personal letters "from" the likes of Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker. It also finds her crossing paths with miscreant Jack Hock (a flamboyant and energetic Richard E Grant). The two misfits form an odd friendship and partnership that begins to cash flow.

A sequence between independent bookstore owner Anna (a talented and under-utilized Dolly Wells) and Lee Israel teases us with the idea of a love interest, but Ms. McCarthy is unable to convince us that Lee's vulnerability is genuine, and the potential relationship soon fizzles thanks to Lee's crankiness and criminal path. While watching, I couldn't help but feel that I was being manipulated into feeling sympathy towards Lee Israel, simply because she is a lonely female criminal. Typically male criminals in movies are social outcasts to be despised and/or feared, so this trickery is a bit unsettling. Personally, I find it difficult to muster sympathy towards any criminal, no matter their gender or how pathetic their life and personality might be.

The best film to date about a forger, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, worked because of the cat and mouse between good and bad, and the criminal at the center was overflowing with personality. Here, we are stuck with a curmudgeon who uses multiple typewriters to create fake letters ... all in the confines of a dirty apartment she shares with her cat. Were it not for Ms. McCarthy's expertise at delivering caustic one-liners or Mr. Grant's impeccable comic timing, this drama would fall flat. If we ever doubted the manipulation, be prepared for two kitty cat scenes designed to elicit "aww" from the audience.

Director Heller does a nice job of presenting an early 1990's feel for New York, including the gay bar Julius', which is evidently still in existence today. There is also an interesting point made about how collectors want to believe, so the authentication process is crucial to the industry - though we can't help but wonder about potential fraud. On the downside, there is really nothing dryer than watching a writer write ... even someone as miserable as Lee Israel, and even on collectible typewriters. Additionally, the score and soundtrack were much too loud for the film, and proved quite distracting in certain scenes. A Paul Simon song near the end seems like a plea for Oscar consideration, but by then, we are just relieved that the bad guy got caught. But that kitty ... aww.
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you can fool some of the people.......
cdcrb25 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Lee israel is unlikable, so it took me a while to get into this story. Melissa McCarthy and Richard grant are on the way to Oscar noms. ms Israel, in need of funds, finds a way of procuring them. things go awry. here's her story. many authentic shots of nyc. go Julius. from the day!
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Fascinating depiction of serial dishonesty
PotassiumMan10 November 2018
Melissa McCarthy is not known for her dramatic roles, but this film might change that. It's the gripping story of Lee Israel, a struggling Manhattan writer who in the early 1990s undertook the extraordinary step of falsifying letters from famous people to make ends meet.

McCarthy is an eye-opener here as the hard-drinking, acid-tongued Israel, a miserable middle-aged woman who sought friendship in precious few souls, one of them being a mysterious figure on the Upper West Side portrayed with fierce verve by Richard E. Grant, who winds up becoming something of an accomplice to her enterprise. She is desperate to pay her bills. His murky story becomes more known as the film progresses. The two of them are an odd couple, as they both have setbacks and misery to look back upon, but their pessimism and misanthrope are not equally shared.

This film will offer a glimpse of nostalgia for anyone who remembers New York in a now quaint era, when struggling writers still lived as adults in Manhattan, when life was endearingly bleak and bookstores were not yet massive chains. That sense of atmosphere I greatly admire. Recommended to anyone who enjoys a scathing story of literary scheming.
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McCarthy fans in Forgive
st-shot16 November 2018
Like many successful film comediennes (Jerry Lewis, Steve Martin) of the past Melissa McCarthy yearns to be taken seriously as biographer alchoholic forger, Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me. She shouldn't given the end to end funk she remains in in this torpid downer that has her trundling around Manhattan trying to pull the wool over the eyes of cozy book store owners. The dodge itself, lacking much if any suspense along with dialog substituting cynicism for wit and McCarthy's inability to stretch enough to touch her nose never takes the film above the glum level.

Biographer Lee Israel's life is spiraling downward. An insensitive lout with a drinking problem, money worries and a sick cat she devises a plan to create forgeries of notable personalities (Noel Coward, Dorothy Parker) to pay the rent, get meds for the cat, drink and continue her surly lifestyle. She takes on a partner Jack, (E.Grant) every bit as self absorbed when the Feds begin to close in.

Director Marielle Heller immediately paints herself in a corner with the unsavory Israel as her protagonist. There is very little wiggle room to sympathize with someone akin to point shaving in college and Heller is unable to make this unapologetic slob likable for more than two minutes at a time. McCarthy's performance compounds the problem. Flat and monotone she simply fails to bring life or interest to her predicament as she sullies her and collectors trades with gall and duplicity while offering copious amounts of self pity. Richard E. Grant as sleazy pal Jack piles the dissipation on with a bit of an elder stateman With Nail and I performance from 30 years back to assure the muck this film is mired in never strays.

Directed with a banal erraticism McCarthy's drab performance languishes throughout and "Forgive" could use a lot of it but not from me. A bungled disappointment.
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I love it.
M_Exchange15 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The screenwriters who wrote this movie's script (Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty) should get recognition from The Academy. Everything flows so smoothly; its jokes are caustic and sometimes subtle, Golden Girls-esque (read: brilliant) gems. Melissa McCarthy is brilliant as Lee Israel. The first time I saw this trailer a stranger who was seated behind me said very sarcastically, "oh, automatic Oscar." Well, actually, yes. Give it to her-- based on what I've seen she should have best actress on lock. To reference The Golden Girls again, she was Bea Arthur-like in the way she played her high brow, indigent and sarcastic character. When I first watched this film weeks ago I thought that they were going to glorify Israel's supposed victimhood, which is the disgusting norm in modern society ("white males have it easy"-- yawn). Instead, her agent (Jane Curtin) shoved reality in her face by reminding that the decisions that she made led her to her fate. Later, during possibly the best scene in the film, Israel has a stream of consciousness as she addresses a judge. She has the revelation that she herself is to blame for everything, and she has been a coward who was never truly a *writer*-- never an *artist* who was willing to expose herself to the public and face criticism. If I have a slight problem with this film, it's the scene in which Israel and her friend Jack relax as they watch a lounge act. Although its camera work is excellent, it seems to linger and is maybe unnecessary. But I'm not exaggerating when I state that many aspects of this film represent cinema at its best. I can't wait for director Marielle Heller's next offering.
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Write or Wrong
jadepietro14 November 2018


IN BRIEF: Two great performances enhance a true tale about breaking the law.

JIM'S REVIEW: Lee Israel is a down-on-her-luck misanthropic writer who admittingly "likes cats more than people" and drink excessively. No one is interested in her novels, no one cares about her either. She is a sad lonely woman who isolates herself from the world and the world seems to prefer it that way too. Forced to survive, Lee decides that becoming a literary forger, complete with dead celebrity signatures, may actually be a more profitable vocation. Played with total honesty and conviction by Melissa McCartney, she becomes a most compelling character of worth in this fact-based biography, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Solidly directed by Marielle Heller and with a literate screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty that captures the 90's sensibilities very well, the film spends a great deal of time establishing Lee's self-enforced exile from the human race and her get-rich scheme. The storytelling becomes a tad monotonous and is more leisurely paced than necessary. But the true life story of an author unable to cope with the harsh realities of life is always a fascinating subject.

And Ms. McCartney is a wonder, showing the full gamut of emotion. She restrains her great comic prowess and exchanges it for genuine pathos and vulnerability. Never allowing her character to become overly sympathetic or too much a victim, Ms. McCartney makes Lee a pathetic yet shrewd criminal. Abetting Lee is her partner-in-crime, a flamboyantly gay Jack Hoch. Richard E. Grant is superb as her only friend and carefree accomplice. These two misfits become a wonderful tag team and bring much nuance to their well written roles. They are both deserving of award consideration. Fine support also comes from its strong cast which includes Dolly Wells, Stephen Spinella, Ben Falcone, Anna Deavera Smith, and Jane Curtain as Lee's frustrated agent.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a nicely honed character study that provides an acting showcase for the talented Ms. M. who hopefully will have more dramatic opportunities in her future cinematic ventures.
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Surprise ...surprise!!
jimvanv-7570311 November 2018
While not the best movie of the season, Melissa McCarty turns in a surprisingly well rounded performance as writer Lee Israel. She's quite convincing as someone unable to establish or maintain deep relationships with anyone (except her cat) but a bit less credible as the deceptive peddler of fake literary documents.

To me the real surprise is the delightful Richard E. Grant in the portrayal of Jack Hock. He's ideal in the role of both the accidental friend and criminal cohort. Think a touch of Jeff Goldblum and a bit of Matthew Broderick ... just enough whimsy to keep you wanting more.

Story line isn't complicated .. you know where its headed and the ultimate outcome.
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Strong performances elevate this film.
bankofmarquis11 November 2018
With not a whole lot of interest filling out the screens at the multi-plexes at this time, I thought I'd head to the "Art House" to check out Melissa McCarthy in CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? This film is garnering strong Oscar buzz for McCarthy's performance and I figured I'd see for myself.

And...darn it all...after a slow start, it does turn into an Oscar worthy performance, after all.

Telling the true tale of writer Lee Israel (based on her memoir), CYEFM tells the story of Israel's descent into criminal behavior to make ends meet by forging literary documents from the past and selling them as the real deal.

Starring as Israel, McCarthy drops all the artifice and bluster that she usually brings to her comedic characters to bring us a "non-people" person (Israel's own words) who is down on her luck. I was a bit skeptical of this performance in the first half of the film for I thought she had fallen victim to the "comedian trying their hands at a serious role" syndrome, being WAY too serious and glum, without a hint of humor. But, in the 2nd half of the film, McCarthy really finds this character and we begin to see a fully formed 3 dimensional person emerging on the screen - warts and all. And, when Israel/McCarthy gives the speech that will be shown at her Oscar nomination, she shows that she is fully deserving of any accolades that might come her way. It is a strong, humanistic portrayal of a person trying to figure it out - and learning that the shortcut probably isn't the best way to go.

Aiding her in her journey - and in this film - is Richard E. Grant as Jack Hock, another lost soul trying to make it in this world while having a good time doing it. Grant has the "showier" of the 2 roles and he revels in his moments. I would be fine with Grant being nominated as well - it is that strong of a performance and balances McCarthy's character wonderfully.

I did have a problem with the first 1/2 of this film, mainly for I disliked the 2 main characters being portrayed, they are certainly NOT 2 people to root for and I felt the film was only showing 1 dimensional stereotypes, but once McCarthy and Grant devise the forgery scheme, the film - and the performances - get very interesting, and multi-layered, indeed.

Keep in mind that this is an "Art House" film, by that I mean "talky". There isn't a whole lot of action and a TON of atmosphere and dialogue, not the type of film for everyone, but for those of you who like this sort of thing, you'll be rewarded by strong performances that lifts this film to a higher level.

Letter Grade: B+

8 (out of 10) stars and you can take that to the Bank(ofMarquis)
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At last a worthy platform to showcase Melissa McCarthy's acting abilities!
onceshy10 November 2018
I absolutely loved Melissa McCarthy's portrayal of Lee Israel, and have been so looking forward to seeing her in such a role. As much as I have laughed till it hurts watching her previous roles in movies, I felt much of her talents had not been tapped in those earlier films. She gives an Oscar-worthy performance in this movie, and enables viewers to sympathize with the flawed character she portrays. And I hate to admit, but I was not familiar with the work of her co-star Richard E. Grant until now, but the masterful way that Melissa and Richard brought to life the unique friendship of Lee and Jack was very enjoyable to watch. Richard's performance of Jack was likewise noteworthy and fabulous. I would love to see Melissa in many more great roles. She is one of the most talented, versatile comedic, and now dramatic, actresses today. It is a shame, however, that I had to hunt to find a theater where this movie was even playing, and it's only in limited viewings, for some reason. I just hope that enough audience is given the opportunity to see this film. Melissa is the kind of actress who gives 150 percent of herself to whatever role she takes on, and this is what makes her a delight to watch!
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It's been a while since Melissa McCarthy gave me such good laughs.
subxerogravity26 October 2018
I tend to put Mrs. McCarthy on a high pedestal since her appearance in Bridesmaids. When I see she's doing a movie I come in ready to bust a gut.

The Advantage of Can you Ever Forgive Me? is that it looks like a drama, so I'm expecting it to go another way so when McCarthy lays down a good laugh it hits me hard. It's the most amusing stories I've seen in a while.

A true story about Lee Israel who was a best selling Arthur that hit a rut, and could not get interest in another book, but found another way to make cash by writing letters she past on as the works of other writers.

If you think about the movie in perspective, though an interesting topic, especially for a round the table conversation over coffee, but an entire movie? I guess that's the magic of Lee Israel's writing, who wrote a book that this movie is getting it's info from.

McCarthy gives a stellar performance stepping out of her safe zone to show you a little depth as writer cliche (During this time in her life (1991 to be exact) Israel was an old and bitter booze hound hanging out in bars trying to hang onto the fame of her last book while hating on Tom Clancy whose getting paid three million dollars to write swallow macho idiocy while she can't even get a book deal cause she's too much of an artist to play the game

McCarthy does have one buffer in the movie in the shape of her husband Ben Falcone who plays a book shop owner who does not look too hard at the letters he's buying from Israel.

Absolutely adorable Picture by McCarthy
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Making a Movie About Bricks Without Straw
boblipton21 October 2018
This movie has the typical issues of a serious movie version of a book by and about an unlikable, real person. Melissa McCarthy gives a fine performance as Lee Israel, a writer on the slide, alcoholic, depressed, and broke, who eases into selling forged and stolen autographed letters from bygone celebrities. Like many a performance depicting a depressed character, she shows a low affect, which is often bleak and uninteresting, ameliorated by a foul mouth and her love for her pet cat -- if you're a cat lover, which I am not. Richard E. Grant has a more interesting role as the gay hustler who sponges off her, and ultimately becomes an accomplice in her schemes. Yet the essential stupidity of his character makes the movie turn into a small-scale tragedy about people for whom the audience can feel no real sympathy.

Given the subject and the characters, the performances and movie can be seen as a bit of a triumph, but in the end, I could not really care about anyone in the movie. The most interesting thing about it were the scenes shot in the venerable Argosy Book Store, where I have been a customer for half a century -- it looks like the first time in longer than that that the place was neatened, even minimally.
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dirkdoodoo4 November 2018
I have to admit that I am a very impatient man!!! This wasn't a horrible movie -- just very, very boring. I got up after an hour and left.

Maybe it got a lot more exciting in the last 30 minutes, but I doubt it.

In my humble opinion, MM needs to stick with light hearted comedies. They are decent and always good for a few laughs. She won't win any Academy Awards, but she will keep her bank account nice and fat.
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Cat sh** and bullsh**
mrosspub4 November 2018
That is all that there's to say about this cynical, boring, absolutely worthless waste of celluloid. There is more time spent on a cat and her excrement than on plot or character development. I highly recommend that you read a good book, listen to some great music, or watch one of the many excellent productions on Netflix of HBO. You will miss nothing by not seeing this trash, but instead you will not feel like you lost 90 minutes of your precious time.
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