DVD Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

STUDIO: Fox | DIRECTOR: Marielle Heller | CAST: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone, Jane Curtin
RELEASE DATE: Feb. 19, 2019 | PRICE: DVD $14.96
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes
SPECS: R | 106 min. | Crime comedy drama | 2.40:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | Spanish, French and English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

For years now, we’ve all known that Melissa McCarthy had more going on then just the boisterous, sometimes befuddled woman type-A personality she minded for career gold in such hit comedies as Spy, Identity Thief and Bridesmaids.

But it’s not likely audiences were primed for her Oscar-nominated tour de force turn in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a beautifully realized dramedy from director Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl).

In the film, McCarthy embodies the real-life Lee Israel, a down-and-out author living near-penniless in Manhattan in the early 1990s and looking for a way to get out of a world of abject poverty and loneliness. After befriending Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant, The Iron Lady), an impoverished gay bon vivant, Israel has a plan: Type out fake letters penned by famous writers, pass them off as real on the collector’s market and cash in—or at least eek out enough money to get her prized cat some much-needed medical attention. Soon, Hock is in on the scam, and he and Israel do indeed sell the phony documents. But will one of the New York City dealers who have dealt with the writer get keen to their scheme?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? has lighter moments in it, but it’s mostly a bittersweet drama that finds you rooting for two not-so likable scalawags. McCarthy finds pathos and dark humor in Lee, hooking audiences with her sheer determination and flawed humanity in the face of a disastrous situation. And Grant– nominated for this year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar–playing Yin to McCarthy’s ever-enabling Yang, keeps step with her as the scotch-swilling Brit who befriends then shatters her with his dubious behavior and character flaws. It’s a match that seems to be made in some ratty heaven destined for hell.

Propelled by quietly powerful direction by Heller and a sensitive award-winning script (co-written by Enough Said filmmaker Nicole Holofcener) based on the Lee Israel’s best-selling book, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is an intelligent saga of questionable success under great duress, and is one of the past year’s most deservedly praised movies.

Despite yeoman efforts from indie specialist distributor Fox Searchlight, this film failed to get the wider audience it deserved, topping out in theaters with a disappointing $8.5 million. Could it have been because of its peculiar title or that folks didn’t want to see McCarthy outside of her broad farcical safe zone? Regardless, great word-of-mouth and a whopping 98% positive Rotten Tomatoes response can only bring more interest to the film in its digital post-theater afterlife.

Buy or Rent Can You Ever Forgive Me?

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.