05th Feb2019

‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone, Gregory Korostishevsky, Jane Curtin, Stephen Spinella, Christian Navarro, Pun Bandhu, Erik LaRay Harvey, Brandon Scott Jones, Shae D’lyn | Written by Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty | Directed by Marielle Heller


Directed by rising star Marielle Heller, her latest offering comes after the 2015 breakout comedic hit film The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Heller turns her attention from a coming of age story to the more overly serious and tonally mature, yet comedically balanced drama, Can You Ever Forgive Me? A film that inhabits a truly outstanding and splendid array of performances. Specifically, that of leading actress Melissa McCarthy, of Bridesmaids and Life of the Party fame, who is terrific and exceptional as subject Lee Israel – fully deserving to be recognised in this year’s awards season with an astonishing dramatic turn.

Heller’s film follows a delightfully simplistic and jaunty template of which is an utter pleasure just to hang out and see develop, similar to that of Spielberg’s most underrated caper Catch Me If You Can or Bart Layton’s American Animals, not only in terms of plot but also style and conviction. Conveying the entertainment factor of a con in action whilst delicately touching and evoking the serious and emotional residue left by such faceless crimes. It is all just intoxicatingly addictive and vibrant. Perhaps due to the narrative itself with the criminality so devious, it becomes infectiously engaging to see occur without feeling in any way sickening or controversial. A testament to the rise of addictive criminal documentaries which have opened the gate to explore guilt deviants and investigate the subject in an authentic guilt-free manner.

Can You Forgive Me? never excuses or finds any provocative extent for justification or reasoning to Israel’s crimes, only documenting the subtle albeit ferocious fallout as it occurs. The screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty is largely the leading drive to how charismatic and superb the film flows. The dialogue throughout is both elegant and precise. Not one conversation between character is out of place or without a purpose adding to a collective common thread of a living breathing heart. Each individual aspect of production is pumping blood and ultimately life into a picture that is working relentlessly on all fronts.

The acting is outrageously superb from Richard E. Grant as Jack Hock and Melissa McCarthy as Israel, respectively. The former is a scene-stealer throughout with an outrageously charismatic character that has charm in abundance flowing with every small detail and interaction. Every monologue is captivating with such a high level of swagger and slick stylish sentiment. Yet has a sweet and bitter melancholic tenderness to the development. I hope that this isn’t McCarthy’s magnum-opus because if this is just a small sample of what she has to offer in the dramatic genre we are all in for a seriously compelling ride and the rise of an undisputedly underrated performer. She is electric on screen. The blunt wit and razor-sharp comedy are here but, in a restraint, almost reformed manner of delivery. It’s never outlandish. Always reinforcing and defining the character, never the performance. Ultimately crafting a rich tapestry of colourful and delightful humane persona to admire, an often-uneasy feat with this specific controversial material on show.

The cinematography and edit by Brandon Trost and Anne McCabe respectively are astonishingly wonderful. Working together effortlessly one could almost find deceit int he fact they haven’t been plucked straight out of a Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen picture from the 1970s. They are both that delightfully romanticised and engaging, utterly stunning to behold in a breathtakingly love drunk approach. The cold architecture and bleak conditions are perfectly paralleled in the bravado of each element of Hock and Isreal’s life. Slick, stylish and warm but always rough around the edges with depleted outlook.

Can You Forgive Me? is in cinemas now.


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