For such a well known actress, Melissa McCarthy is strangely underrated.
Flexing her considerable comic and dramatic chops as early as those first seasons of Gilmore Girls to later find broader fame with Bridesmaids and the likes of Paul Feig’s Spy, also regretfully underestimated both before and following it’s release, McCarthy has an adept range not always reflected in the projects she picks.
Misfiring all too frequently with comedies ala The Boss or Ghostbusters, in Can You Ever Forgive Me? McCarthy manages to blend the arms of her sensibilities into that tragicomic and all the more engaging for showcasing that much more of what she can do.
Chronicling the escapades of Brooklyn author and later forger Lee Israel (McCarthy), paired almost throughout with her partner of sorts in crime Jack Hock (an ever enigmatic Richard E. Grant), Lee’s transformation from down on her luck writer to shrewd trickster is believable in McCarthy’s hands, more so for the actress so deftly and emphatically demonstrating that which would motivate someone to take such an egregious leap. Portraying the less than glamorous aspects of the author’s life in the lowest stages of her career, neither McCarthy nor screenwriters Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, to their credit and the ultimate benefit of the finished product, take the easy opportunities to fire off cheap or comic shots that, given McCarthy’s casting and the expectations of many who come to see her pictures, could expectantly have made the narrative that much more irreverent and in the context of this particular story less compelling.
Glossing heavily over Hock’s (mostly) side-story, this much more serious subject matter never gets so much credence as that which ultimately made Lee so well known. The recounting is best when channelling this predominantly dramatic and main arc, the heist-lite bona fides of which render the extended final act greatly more engrossing than those still accomplished segments that preceded it. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is at its most interesting on those not infrequent occasions when Lee comes face to face with her buyers; coyly hinting at (in some cases – on this author’s interpretation) their own complicity in a manner wherefore leaving these instances welcomely wide open for debate
In a film heaped with right and wrong those involved take the uncommon step at these junctures of broadly reserving judgement, hitherto leaving us with the transfixing task of deliberating its intricacies rather than having any which perspective foisted upon us. Can You Ever Forgive Me? dexterously begs its titular question and given the talent of its champions graciously permits us a narrative and retelling we can ponder throughout and long after.