Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Melissa McCarthy shines in this whip-smart tale of real-life writer Lee Israel, and how she found her voice as a literary forger

Film Review by Joseph Walsh | 02 Feb 2019
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Film title: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Director: Marielle Heller
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E Grant
Release date: 1 Feb
Certificate: 15

Melissa McCarthy has never been better than in this remarkable true life tale based on the memoirs of writer-turned-literary forger Lee Israel. Directed by Marielle Heller, we open in the early 90s with the irascible Lee struggling to make ends meet, whiling away her hours getting soused on whisky with old acquaintance Jack Hock (Grant), a down-and-out gay bon vivant of great charm.

By chance, Lee discovers a valuable letter by famed vaudeville artist Fanny Brice, which she promptly sells, although told that if it were ‘spicier’ it would have made more money. This lightbulb moment leads to her embellishing, and later forging, letters by literary greats like Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward. But before long the FBI are on her trail.

Against a backdrop of bookish landmarks and gay bars in winter-chilled New York, Heller delicately balances whip-smart acerbic wit and tragedy, as we are plunged into the inner life of a troubled writer. It’s a melancholic, smart, cautionary tale about a woman who decided if you can’t make it, fake it.

Released by 20th Century Fox