Can You Ever Forgive Me -7.5
In two words: Author Alcoholic
In a rare non-comedic role, Melissa McCarthy shows the dramatic side of her talents by playing a down-in-her-luck author, Lee Israel, who sadly finds herself on the outs with her literary agent, her publisher and everyone else who avoids her like a rotten smell, other than her cat. Set in New York City in the 1970s and 80s, where she lives in a ramshackle, filthy apartment, there’s hardly a scene in the movie where McCarthy is not sipping on a glass of Scotch. She had been a successful author once, profiling numerous celebrities like Tallulah Bankhead, Katherine Hepburn, Estee Lauder and others. Now she’s barely able to get past the alcohol induced writer’s block.
On the edge of being evicted by her landlord, coupled with a number of other debts, Lee stumbles on a an easy money scheme to deal with selling bogus documents signed/written by other famous authors of the past, often worth anywhere from $50 to thousands, depending. She established a friendship with a gay man, interestingly named “Jack Hock,” another down-and-out drunk drug user played by Richard E. Grant, where they share a few laughs and financial problems. He eventually serves as an aid and abetter in her scheme. Though she allows him to live in her apartment, they are strictly friends only.
The scheme pays off for Lee for a while, until she’s embarrassingly exposed and becomes of interest to law enforcement. Eventually, she must go through a major transition in life. Fact is, Lee Israel was a true author whose life is, in part, chronicled in this movie.
This is a good movie, well acted, if you like pure drama and the downside of a good life gone wrong. McCarthy is a gifted actress who may get a nod for some awards, but I doubt it will become a hit at the box office. A little slow in parts. Some liberties are taken with bad language, but it fits her character. Authors, in particular, may like this film.
Richard E. Grant does a credible job acting in the shadow of Melissa McCarthy. In real life he’s married to a woman and has two kids.
Rotten Tomatoes gave this film a 98%. I give it a 7.5 out of 10.