Monday, November 5, 2018

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Comedic actors doing dramatic roles have a storied history in Hollywood. Robin Williams won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, & Adam Sandler showed some amazing acting power in Punch-Drunk Love. Although there are some times where it hasn't worked out (any of Vince Vaughn's dramatic performances other than Into the Wild), it has worked out well for the most part.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a brilliantly witty yet dramatic portrayal of a truly astonishing series of literary crimes. Based on the book Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel, the film follows Lee Israel (played by Melissa McCarthy), a writer. Once popular for writing several biographies of high-profile women, Israel has fallen on hard times due to her outdated writing style & her difficult personality, as she is an alcoholic.

One day, at a bar, she runs into old friend Jack Hock (played by Richard E. Grant), who is openly gay & also an alcoholic & a bit of a drug addict. They start to rekindle their friendship, & they are almost a perfect fit for a friendship, as they are both misanthropes.

Around this time, Israel becomes financially despondent, having to sell a Katharine Hepburn letter to get some money. While doing research for her upcoming book about Fanny Brice, she comes across a letter in a book about her. Israel sneaks it out of the library & sells it as well, albeit for a lower price than the Hepburn letter.

From here, Israel has a pleasant idea to make money: forge letters written by literary icons & sell them. She eventually gets Hock in on this, & for a while, their plan goes well, getting at least $200 per letter. But when a letter supposedly written by Noel Coward raises some eyebrows, their criminal enterprise begins to crash down.

The cast is fantastic. Melissa McCarthy easily gives her best performance yet. She is perfectly misanthropic & witty. Richard E. Grant is also phenomenal, & is the MVP here. He is perfectly sardonic.

Marielle Heller's direction is excellent. Heller's direction is subdued, & it handles the tonal shifts incredibly well.

And the screenplay by Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty is amazing. Holofcener & Whitty do a great job of adapting from the source material, keeping Israel's trademark wit.

This is one of the best films of the year. It's a well-acted & well-written film about a series of letters that were also a huge crime.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, November 2, 2018. It is currently in 3 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI; & the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 106 minutes, & it is rated R for language including some sexual references, & brief drug use.

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