Film review: Can you ever forgive me?


Based on a true story, down-on-her-luck biographer Lee Israel starts forging celebrity letters to make money.

Our Review:

Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) is an abrasive, frumpy and miserable biographer who has published books on icons including Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead and Estee Lauder, but remains anonymous and struggles to find work. 

After being fired from her day-job and unable to afford rent or treatment for her sick cat, Israel coincidently runs into old acquaintance and fellow misanthrope Jack Hock (Richard E Grant) while drowning her sorrows at a local bar. Hock and Israel become drinking buddies and eventually friends, much to Israel’s surprise and chagrin.

The comedic chemistry between McCarthy and Grant is reason alone to see the film. The delivery of quirky one-liners which bounce off one another’s miscreant behaviour uplifts what could have otherwise been an intensely miserable film. 

Despite the laugh-out-loud moments, Can You Ever Forgive me? is a story of desperation. In a rare moment of luck, Israel stumbles on letters from vaudeville comedian Fanny Brice which she steals from a library and sells for a tidy sum. Israel soon discovers she can make even more money by composing witty letters ‘written by’ her favourite literary figures and ropes Hock into her new career as a forger.

Director Marielle Heller doesn’t shy away from the unsavoury aspects of both Israel and Hock, resulting in a biopic that explores the vulnerabilities and insecurities of two lonely, aging queer people in 1990s Manhattan.

Final verdict: 4/5


Marielle Heller


Melissa McCarthy, Richard E Grant, Dolly Wells

Film Rating:


If you like this movie, try:

Catch me if you can, American Hustle, Quiz Show, Art and craft, F for fake

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