There is one certainty that comes to define the annual scrum for cinematic awards: films based on true(-ish) stories. This year, to name a few, we have First Man (Neil Armstrong), Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen), The Favourite (Queen Anne), Stan & Ollie (Laurel and Hardy) and A Private War (Marie Colvin) all fighting to be the recipient of prizes in February. While most cover familiar stories, sometimes a film can come along and find a fascinating story that the majority of viewers will be unfamiliar with. This is the case with the rather splendid Can You Ever Forgive Me?
In the film, Lee Israel is a formerly successful biography writer in 90s
Director Marielle Heller (who took over from Nicole Holofcenter, sharing a writing credit here) follows up her terrific debut, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, cementing herself as an exceptional talent. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking, successfully managing to be approachable and meaningful. It is effective both as a drama on the loneliness of urban life and as an unexpectedly exciting heist thriller (and what a tremendous time the heist movie is having right now). This film is exceptionally unique, successfully able to straddle several genres simultaneously.
Melissa McCarthy is the best she has ever been, with Lee Israel representing the star's most serious role to date.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is an exceptional film, certainly worthy of award love. McCarthy gives her finest performance to date, in a role that may do for the performer what Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting did for Robin Williams. Deeply human, bittersweet and oddly affecting, this film is far stronger then you expect it to be, and emerges as a quiet masterpiece.