How peculiar is it when a film's title is a question? Is it as peculiar as me opening this review with two? Quite possibly - but Can You Ever Forgive Me? reminds us is that eccentricity isn't always a bad thing, however that's heavily influenced by how you view the legality of certain actions. Author Lee Israel has slipped behind the wave of trendy literature, and as her out of fashion writing sees her career drift steadily into decline she begins forging letters by renowned authors.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? has the dark wit and idiosyncrasies of a classic Woody Allen fable. Following on from 2015's The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Director Marielle Heller envisions a terrifically downbeat tale of disenchanted outcasts and dying art. By no means does the film manipulate us into feeling compassionate towards Israel - it's in fact through her aloof nature that we somehow side with her. We see shades of Allen's filmography many in aspects of Can You Ever Forgive Me? - Heller sandwiches together establishing shots of New York, akin to Manhattan (1979) - and even though it's quainter visually, the film is accompanied by a similar swooning jazz score, just the stereotype one imagines as inspiration for writers. Chiefly, though - unlike our conniving protagonist - Heller is not a con artist and despite some reservations Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a strange beauty to behold.
Melissa McCarthy whose career, like Israel's, has been in gentle but steady decline, rises like a phoenix in a strikingly and typically obnoxious role. There is literally nothing to like about her, she's crass, hostile and extremely deceiving and yet McCarthy draws us in to empathise with her social mishaps and sheer loneliness. We've seen the actress in the odd serious role - think St. Vincent (2014) - but nothing with this emotional heft. When I mentioned the film's theme of dying art I was referring to Israel's wilting vocation. McCarthy brings her typical provocativeness but evokes the devastation felt when not being able to meet the current standard, of slipping out of touch, of resorting to falsification as a last and desperate resort. This time around she leaves a different taste in your mouth.
Furthermore Can You Ever Forgive Me? explores the unlikely bond between Israel and her footloose companion Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant). They couldn't be anymore different, but when combined their cynical nature is electric. Heller turns a potentially dry subject into a spicy and revealing biopic, focused on a couple of fairly odd but explosive individuals. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is like discovering an enthralling vintage book deep in the archives of your local library - so unexpected, but so rewarding.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?:
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.