Can You Ever Forgive Me?

In Brief: Want to see some perfect acting? Catch Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant in this one.

Finally someone has given Melissa McCarthy a chance to act. Once in awhile in the dreadful comedies she’s cast in, McCarthy will get a scene where she’s allowed to stretch. The first time I really noticed her skills was in the touching scene in Bridesmaids where she — paraphrasing — talked honestly about her weight and how because of that she’ll never have the romantic opportunities — or any other opportunities — that Kristen Wiig’s Annie will have in her life.

At that moment I fell in love with McCarthy and have been in love with her since.

The lady can flat act and is one of the most charismatic actresses ever. Unfortunately — and I suppose to pay the bills — she and hubby Ben Falcone keep sticking her is one dumb comedy after another.

Can You Forgive Me? is not a dumb comedy. Though it has some humorous parts, it’s not a comedy. Not even close. And McCarthy is brilliant. Add extra punctuation there. She is just flat out incredible.

McCarthy plays real-life writer Lee Israel. She wrote a few acclaimed biographies and then pretty much dropped off the publishing radar. Desperate — and to pay rent and just live — Israel started forging letters from famous but very dead writers and actors. Apparently she forged some 400 of them.

Eventually, experts in the letter writings of these late celebrities caught onto the scam and Israel was caught and prosecuted.

Director Marielle Heller (Diary of a Teenage Girl) and writers Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said, Please Give, Friends with Money, Lovely and Amazing) and first time writer Jeff Whitty tell Israel’s story in a fairly straight fashion. Heller — as she did with Diary of a Teenage Girl — proves to be an economical storyteller. What you see is what you get but what you get is really good.

And that’s good in a different sort of way.

While I don’t know much about Whitty, I am familiar with Holofcener’s screenwriting. She’s one of my favorites. The economical, but clever set up and delivery of nuances that make Israel’s story fascinating has her style stamped all over it.

It is — however — McCarthy who gives Israel three dimensions and makes you feel sorry for the lady and wish she’d never gotten caught. McCarthy has that ability in spades. In places she’s so pathetic she almost brings you to tears — and, again — makes you wish people would have just left Israel alone.

McCarthy does Israel as a nasty-dispositioned loner who is not only not comfortable in her own skin, but she isn’t comfortable around anyone else either. She just wants to be alone and write.

Her cohort in crime is Richard E. Grant’s Jack Hock, a gay drunkard with unique resources. Grant (Logan) is an exceptional character actor who — when given a chance — can hold his own with anyone. He plays Hock as the closest thing Israel has to a friend.

She’s likely to get best actress nominations for sure from any and all film associations. So is he.

And so — likely — is this movie. If not, and if McCarthy and Grant are ignored, will we ever forgive them for not recognizing Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Director: Marielle Heller

Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone, Gregory Korostishevsky, Jane Curtin, Stephen Spinella, Christian Navarro

Rated R for mature themes and language. Finally someone has given Melissa McCarthy a part that allows her to really act. She’s nothing short of brilliant and this film is a good one. Give it a 5 on the Average Joe Movie 0 to 5 scale.

Click here for showtimes and theaters.

5 to 4 1/2: Must see on the big screen.
4 to 3 1/2: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 to 2 1/2: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 to 1: Don’t bother.
0:Speaks for itself.

Catch Gary Wolcott Friday afternoons at 4:50 on KXL’s Afternoon News.

Gary has been KXL’s movie critic since 2014. A lifelong fan of film, he’s been a film critic in radio, television and newspaper for 28-years. Wolcott catches a couple of hundred movies a year and he sees a great many of them so you don’t have to.

He is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

Got a movie suggestion or comment? Click here to email him.

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