Melissa McCarthy has always been one of our greatest actresses. True, her predilection for humour has landed her in seemingly type-cast outrageous roles and gross-out comedies (each with their own level of success.) Yet underneath this all, McCarthy has proven that whilst she can be outstanding in comedic movies such as Bridesmaids (which earned her an Academy Award nomination, lest we forget,) Ghostbusters and Spy, she can showcase emotions and be earnest, tender, sweet and encompassing.
There has always been a want for the talented star to tackle a meatier and more dramatic role which, happily for us, has taken the form of disgruntled Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Directed by Marielle Heller, who previously gave us the incredible Diary of a Teenager Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me? revolves around the crimes of Israel. As a biographical author, Lee finds herself ousted to the outskirts of the writing community after numerous of her books fail. Not keen to join in on networking or being nice, Israel finds herself elaborating and forging letters from classic Hollywood stars to pay rent. Enlisting the help of friend Jack Hock, Israel finds she has a flare for the forgeries and finds herself deep in the deception.
Heller presents a rather intimate portrayal of a very dislikeable woman. With concise direction and a sullen New York vibe, the whiskey-swilling, insult throwing author is framed with clear understanding from the director. It helps that Academy-award nominated writers Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty radiates empathy for the subject alongside it’s very own “caustic wit.”
Yet it is the powerhouse performance by McCarthy that propels Can You Ever Forgive Me? into excellence. Israel is unfriendly and in many cases, unkind. Letting her lifestyle fritter away, her home as filthy and disregarded as her personal relationships, Israel is an alcoholic with a vicious bite – preferring the company of her cat and the bottom of a whisky glass. McCarthy however, uncovers ebbs of loneliness within the character and even pieces together likeable qualities beneath a shell of bitterness. McCarthy is simply towering in doing this, turning the tide of your empathy as it crashes in Israel’s favour. In a spectacular intimate scene as her new friend Jack watches her from a bar, McCarthy keeps a sadness in Israel’s eyes as she finds herself reaching out and enjoying herself within the company of others. It’s an exquisite performance, much-deserving of the nominations levied to her because in spite of her crimes and her venomous bile, you’ll find yourself rooting for her at every instance.
McCarthy is paired with the fantastic Richard E. Grant as the brilliant Hock, who is a reprobate in his own life. Though living mysteriously, Grant brings the same level of loneliness in his nomad character who cycles through friends and flats and houses, never really setting his oar. Grant and McCarthy have wonderful chemistry together as somewhat lost souls who found themselves in their own little crime syndicate.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a brilliantly engaging film with a downbeat humour and impeccable emotion filtered throughout.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is out now.