LFF 2018 Preview - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Dir: Marielle Heller
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin
There’s been a lot of buzz about how this movie might land Melissa McCarthy a Best Actress Oscar nom. And whilst it is clearly her best work since Bridesmaids, (which isn’t saying much), it isn’t really the transformative turn it has been talked up to be. She is indeed excellent as notorious literary forger Lee Israel in this true life tale, but if anyone should have their eye on gold, then it’s definitely Richard E. Gramnt in the Best Supporting category, for his brilliant turn as her best (only) gay friend, a witty, louche, hard drinking companion, that has obvious echoes of Withnail, but which he rapidly transcends.
Lee is a bitter, semi-failed celebrity biographer, increasingly dependent on alcohol, even more increasingly broke, and reserving what little compassion and humanity she has left for her sick cat. When she meets up with the equally alcohol-empowered Jack (Grant) she hatches a desperate plan to forge letters from dead celebrities, finding herself able to write in the “voices” of Noel Coward, Dorothy Parker (“I’m a better Dorothy Parker than Dorothy Parker”) and more. For awhile it proves successful and Lee gets something of a life back (and her cat gets well) but it is not something that is destined to last.
In real life, Israel was caught out and wrote what became her best seller about the events, and on which this film is based. Here, McCarthy certainly does stretch her normally close-quarters range, finding a strong degree of poignancy in Lee, even if she tries her best not to let it be seen. Cracking away at her tough façade – and cracking away brilliantly – is Grant, a man on his last legs but refusing to lie down. It is an extremely funny turn, but also one that constantly skirts the edge of tragedy, bringing a real depth and humanity to his drunken but always supportive friend.
Both actors are likely to find themselves cropping up all over during awards season, but it is Grant who stands the real chance of going home a winner. Heller’s film is also something of a winner, a rich two-handed character study that always amuses, whilst finding some degree of tender sadness to deal with along the way.
(I guess we should all be grateful McCarthy didn’t get her husband to direct this one!)
Can You Ever Forgice Me? plays the LFF on 19, 20 & 21 October
More info @ www.bfi.org.uk/lff
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