Can You Ever Forgive Me?: an enjoyable real-life caper
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a 2018 American biographical film directed by Marielle Heller and with a screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, based on the confessional memoir of the same name by Lee Israel. Melissa McCarthy stars as Israel, and the story follows her attempts to revitalize her failing writing career by forging letters from deceased authors and playwrights.
The film also features Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin, Anna Deavere Smith, Stephen Spinella, and Ben Falcone in supporting roles. Israel took the title from an apologetic line in a letter in which she posed as Dorothy Parker. Can You Ever Forgive Me? received critical acclaim, with McCarthy and Grant’s performances receiving widespread praise. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 98% based on 280 reviews, with an average rating of 8.2/10.
The website’s critical consensus reads, “Deftly directed and laced with dark wit, Can You Ever Forgive Me? proves a compelling showcase for deeply affecting work from Richard E. Grant and Melissa McCarthy.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”.
Film Journal International said McCarthy’s performance was “stunning” and her previous film roles “could not anticipate how fearlessly and credibly she inhabits [sic] Lee Israel.” Eric Kohn of IndieWire said the film was a “charming melancholic comedy” where “Heller channels the dark urban milieu of vintage Woody Allen”, and in which McCarthy’s performance “elevates the material at every opportunity.”