Hell has frozen. Everyone I know who knows me well is aware of my irrational dislike of Melissa McCarthy. Whenever I see her name in any film, I always make sure NOT to see it. But after seeing her new film, I can only quote its title to tell her: ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’
Because she is fantastic int his movie, playing Lee Israel, a down and out biographer who starts forging signatures in personal letters for money. She plays this character so well I recognize it. When I was in new York City, I see all these characters all the time: old camudgeony, ‘mad-at-the-world’ New Yorkers who are almost psychopaths. At one point even, I thought I was going to be one of those characters. They are so tough and jaded and guarded outside but these people have hearts of gold. I still have a friend or two are like the character she plays int he movie, but alas, fate would bring me west.
Directed by Marielle Heller from Israel’s memoir, the film tries so hard to make Lee an unlikable character, but somehow McCarthy makes Lee Israel sympathetic. Even as the character finds herself in deep doo-doo, I found myself rooting for her. And she has great chemistry with Richard E Grant who plays Jack, her partner in crime. Jack is one of those eccentric West Village gays who dress like Quentin Cresp, and seems to be a throwback to a more innocent time. Nowadays middle aged queens try to recapture their youth by tweaking at circuit parties. I bet his Jack listened to Judy Garland and Peggy Lee, so he is more my spirit animal. (The real Jack died from AIDS complications in the 90s)
I do think the film could have been trimmed just a bit – the pacing dragged three quarters in. And there are some glaring holes int he story, which I am sure is explained better in the book. But still, see this for McCarthy’s bravura performance. I hope she gets an Academy Award nomination for this. She deserves it.