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Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Beneath most great comedians lies a great actor. Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, hell even Don Rickles showed his chops in “Casino”. Melissa McCarthy continues that legacy with her Oscar nominated performance in CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

Based on a true story, McCarthy plays writer Lee Israel. Frequently drunk, living in the past and running on empty, Israel has seen better days. Her pet projects are on topics no one under 65 could possibly care about and opportunities are running dry.

Jane Curtin is Lee’s agent, unleashing the truth that Lee needs to explore another line of work or make a serious course correction. Lee finds that new path by easing into and then thriving on fraudulent pieces of history.

She creates notes by the likes of Cole Porter or Dorothy Parker, doing her best writing in years by impersonating their unique humor. When the fake letters and inscriptions start paying the rent and more, Israel begins a long rush headlong into criminal deception and fraud.

Lee’s partner in crime is the man at the next bar stool in their favorite NYC dive. Jack Hock (the Oscar nominated Richard E. Grant) is flamboyant, hilarious, sad and ready for any adventure. Lee and Jack’s verbal sparring is the heart of the film. The more you love dark sarcasm and sadistic wit, the more you’ll enjoy the movie. It’s definitely my sense of humor!

Writers Nicole Holofcener (the terrific “Enough Said”) and Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) thread the line between biography, crime drama and character study with deft words and nice tension as Lee’s fraud attracts the attention of the FBI.

McCarthy is terrific, sans any polish or social skills and barreling her way through Manhattan streets and her own morals at a desperate pace. Her chemistry with Grant as two lonely barflies yields a ton of laughs and profane interactions. The fact that her most emotional moments on screen involve her cats says a lot about Lee.

I loved the final scenes that offer a glimpse of the real life Lee Israel’s story after the events depicted in the film. As a sucker for well acted/written dramas with redemption at their heart, but not necessarily in their final act, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME is a quiet, small film with a big, emotional center, perfectly filled by McCarthy. She’s incredibly talented. Can’t wait to see what she does next.

It gets an A.

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