Can You Ever Forgive Me? Review

“… a fun heist film but not much else.”

Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a movie about American author Lee Israel and her scheme of forging letters by prominent authors for financial profit, is being hailed as Melissa McCarthy’s greatest role and a brilliantly written film. Unfortunately I wasn’t that much of a fan.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? Is unlike McCarthy’s other roles because instead of playing a bumbling idiot who makes her living on fat jokes and pratfalls she plays a down-on-her-luck writer who turns to a life of crime to get by. The picture painted of Israel was terribly tragic with her only friends being a cat and a geriatric British gentleman with sticky fingers. But what we saw consistently throughout the film was the struggle to convey this story to the audience. 

Can You Ever Forgive Me? doesn’t really have a hero. There is no one to root for. McCarthy, while the main character, plays someone who is kind of despicable. Sure the film wants you to feel bad for her with glimpses of her love life (or lack thereof), but ultimately I couldn’t get behind what I was seeing. 

The real meat of the movie comes when it understands that it is playing with low-stakes. Let’s be real, the only person Israel was defrauding were collectors. It’s almost a victimless crime, so the movie was able to have some fun with the topic. This part of the movie, wherein Lee and her friend Jack bounce around New York on this caper-like adventure is brilliant. It’s fun, it’s suspenseful, it’s everything I wanted this movie to be. 

Then the movie just kind of ends. Because the crimes committed were such low stakes there was no real connection to the story. Things stopped just as abruptly as they had started and I was left with the film expecting me to care about this character that I had very little attachment to. 

In terms of performances McCarthy knocked it out of the park during the many dramatic scenes in the film, but to call this anything other than a slight deviation for her would be incorrect. Can You Ever Forgive Me? still very much uses McCarthy for her comedic ability, the only difference is that the humour is more deadpan or black. The emotional beats, while impressive and moving, are few and far between leaving Can You Ever Forgive Me? to exist as a fun heist film but not much else.

Overall Can You Ever Forgive Me? was pretty enjoyable, but it tried to do more than it was set out to. The film both used the low-stakes nature of the crimes as a punchline while also trying to connect the audience to the story and the characters. It didn’t exactly work on that level in my eyes.

I give Can You Ever Forgive Me? a B

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