Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 400-Word Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Melissa McCarthy shines in an unconventional tale.

Photo by Mary Cybulski; © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The merits of “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” the dry-as-bone comedy from director Marielle Heller, are the sort that don’t win awards.

To be clear, Melissa McCarthy has a shot at an Oscar nomination (and, if oddsmakers are to be believed, a statistically significant chance to win) for her portrayal of disgraced writer Lee Israel. In a just world, Heller would land somewhere near the podium, too.

But the big achievement here is in keeping a character so fully and completely unlikable sympathetic. “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” is an argument for the inherent humanity of even the most curmudgeonly misanthropes, delivered elegantly — even achingly.

Based on Israel’s autobiography — in a wonderfully restrained adaptation by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty — “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” opens with its subject on the bottom. Despite a handful of well-received, high-profile biographies, Israel (McCarthy) is struggling to hold down a day job, surrendering to alcoholism and not writing anything. Desperate to pay rent, she hawks a signed letter from Katherine Hepburn that hangs in her apartment; after chancing upon correspondence from the vaudevillian Fanny Brice and selling it under dubious means, she realizes there’s big money in fake missives.

Her lone friend is charismatic mooch Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant); in between nights of heavy drinking, they conspire to further defraud the niche collectors who trade in such memorabilia.

It’s an interesting and enjoyable ramble, despite the fact that Israel is utterly despicable. (As is Hock, to a lesser extent.) She is not likable; she is not charming. There is poisonous wit, but her obstinate self-sabotage, manipulation and general hatred for mankind render the audience unable to see her as even an antihero. Yet her plight is pitiable; this is a person for whom the world and its inhabitants, save a beleaguered cat, are utter mysteries. You won’t want to know her; as the title suggests, you may not forgive her misdeeds. But you will certainly feel for her.

This heavy lift of empathizing is shared by McCarthy and Heller. The portrayal has the slightest shadow of McCarthy’s inherent likability; she is masterful in her control of the character, firmly holding an awful grouch in one hand and genuine sadness in the other. It’s hard enough for us to sympathize with our enemies in real life; to make us relate in fiction is, in many ways, an even finer trick.

My Rating: 8/10

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Get the Scoop on Up-and-Coming Crafters at Show and Sell

Taking place at Construction Junction, the spring pop-up market from Handmade Arcade will feature 30 local makers selling home decor, clothing and art.

The City's Free Grass Cutting Service is Back for Its Second Year

There’s four different ways to apply — do you qualify?

Kennywood Earns Designation as Certified Autism Center

With noise-cancelling headphones and sensory bags, park officials hope its summertime fun can be accessible for more families.

For Three Days, Sesame Street Will be in Pittsburgh

Kids can join Big Bird, Elmo and more Muppets as Sesame Workshop plans three days of events during a stop in Pittsburgh in June.

Penguins’ Lament: ‘To an Extent We Beat Ourselves’

The answer to a self-inflicted postseason sweep must begin with getting the players and their coach back on the same page regarding what’s required for survival in the playoffs.

Picklesburgh to Double in Size for Its Fifth Year

Nation’s top speciality food festival to spill out onto Ft. Duquesne Boulevard.

A Look at The Latest Restaurant Openings in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh says hello to Alta Via, Leo. A Public House, a new Milk Shake Factory location and more.

Is Your Pittsburgh Street on This Year's Road Repaving List?

The City of Pittsburgh has announced its street paving plan for 2019. You’re one click away from finding out if your street or route to work is on the list.

Downtown Pittsburgh Remains a Classic Rock Haven

PM intern Amanda Myers recounts the radio-rock adventures that life as a Downtown student has made possible.

The 400-Word Review: Master Z: Ip Man Legacy

The latest chapter in the Hong Kong martial-arts franchise gets a Pittsburgh release.

The 400-Word Review: The Curse of La Llorona

The latest chapter in the Conjuring franchise concerns a sinister spirit from folklore.

Details Shine in Metallic Hip-Hop Wedding

A graffiti-decorated cake, a sequined jacket for the groom and a violinist playing hip-hop covers wowed guests at this Strip District wedding.

New Restaurants Coming to Smallman Galley and Federal Galley

Look for New Mexican cuisine, customizable chicken and more as half of the Pittsburgh Galley Group concepts change in the next few months.

Design Goes to the Dogs with BARKitecture

Featuring innovative indoor animal shelters designed by local architects and artists going up for auction, the event at PerLora raises money for Animal Friends.

The 400-Word Review: Hellboy

The cult comic character gets a reboot in this R-rated action flick.