Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a biographical film directed by Marielle Heller and written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, based on the memoir of the same name by Lee Israel. The film stars Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant.

The Story/The Direction:

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After her biography of Estée Lauder tanked, author Lee Israel (McCarthy) is having a tough time finding work. She has writer's block and has moved to alcohol to cope with her issues. Furthermore, her agent does not believe in her work and thus will not find push a new biography.  As she begins to sell her possessions, she finds a rare letter and sells it to a book dealer. Eventually, she ends up forging letters and gaining money from it. She ends up working with Jack Hock (Grant), a drug dealer to sell the letters. 

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As far as biopics go, the film is fairly decent and can stand on its own as a true story about a tragic woman. The film is a combination of a dram, comedy, and a tribute to this woman. The film feels right in the early '90s and really adds to the film's environment. The film is fairly safe when it comes to its story and tells a good tale for the entire runtime that keeps it engaging. However, the main reason is the cast themselves. 

The Characters:

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 McCarthy has stepped outside her comfort zone with this role as she really gives the character vulnerability. She makes the character of Israel her own and captures her awkwardness fantastically while also giving her a personality. Her acting is supported by Grant who is the exact opposite of Israel. He's outgoing, charming, and is willing to dress up for any occasion. She struggles with people whereas he gets along with everyone. Their chemistry is the most enjoyable part of this film and really makes the price of admission worth it. 

The Flaws:

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The biggest issue with this film is that the formula of a biopic does not break for this film. It gets from point A to point Z fairly safely with not much separation from that path. Furthermore, this film tries to make the audience sympathetic towards Israel even when she is doing something extremely wrong. At the end of it all, the audience may feel a little bored as not much happens throughout the run time.


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Even with its relatively safe plot, the film is able to be fairly engaging and has a very good cast that makes it worth seeing. McCarthy and Grant have great chemistry but it may be worth waiting until the film is out of theatres before seeing it. 

Rating: 4.0/5.0 bowties

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