By Megan Bianco
Melissa McCarthy has proven to be the female equivalent to Adam Sandler’s film career. Her small, indie dramedies are great, like Go (1999), White Oleander (2002) and St. Vincent (2014). Her first few years as a viable A-lister were good with Bridesmaids (2011) and Spy (2015). But ever since blowing up into stardom, McCarthy’s big-budget comedies have been truly abysmal, such as Identity Thief (2013), Tammy (2014) and Happytime Murders (2018). Fortunately, her latest is along the lines of her indie work: Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?
In 1991 New York City, Lee Israel (McCarthy) is an out-of-work biographer with a bad attitude and borderline alcoholism. She lives with her cat, doesn’t have any friends and no one wants her latest profile on legendary comedian Fanny Brice. At one time she was selling books on the lives on Katharine Hepburn and Tallulah Bankhead; now the only type of writing she can make money from is forging fake letters of other famous writers. And the only person who knows is her new scheme is drinking buddy John Hock (Richard E. Grant).
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is based on the 2008 memoir of the same name by the real Israel, who passed in 2014. McCarthy gives possibly her best dramatic performance to date, and director Heller’s own indie origins are perfect for the intimate tale. The biopic is almost like a quaint, female variant of Catch Me If You Can (2002) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Forgive Me? doesn’t have the happiest ending—especially if you’re a cat-lover—but it makes you appreciate friendship and talent.