This review isn’t forged, 3.5 readers. It’s genuine.
Also, the SPOILERS are real.
BQB here with a review of “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
I can’t put my finger on one reason. Instead, for many reasons, as I watched Melissa McCarthy as a middle-aged woman sobbing uncontrollably with a dead cat in her arms, I found myself thinking, almost in Jon Lovitzian fashion, “This is acting!”
But let’s backup. McCarthy plays Lee Israel, a once successful magazine writer and biographer of celebrities. One of her biographies hit the New York Times bestseller list, but when her latest biography flops, her career is done. Over. Finito. She can’t catch a break. Her manager, played by Jane Curtin, more or less informs her that she’s a loser, and her bills are piling up. Her cat is sick and needs expensive treatment. Her rent is overdue. She’s on her way to being homeless.
In an odd twist of fate, while doing research on vaudevillian Fannie Brice, she discovers a real letter written by Fannie herself stuck in one of the library’s books about the old time comedienne. Rather than be honest and tell the library about it, she pockets it. She adds a joke at the end with her own typewriter to up the value and voila, she sells it for just enough cash to help her kitty and keep her landlord at bay.
Alas, once she gets a taste of easy money, she can’t get enough. She falls into the world of celebrity letter collectors and yeah, apparently there is, or was, one. She forges away, writing letters and attributing them to long deceased stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. She makes her way from book store to book store and other collector shops, selling them for profit.
Her partner in crime is Jack Hock, an unapologetically flamboyant homosexual raconteur. Once an aspiring writer who hobnobbed in the same stodgy Mahattan writer party scene as Lee, they get reacquainted over a chance meeting in a bar. Turns out, they’re both washed up has-beens who can’t even get invited to the parties they didn’t even like going to in the first place.
At this point, you might want to know why I think Melissa McCarthy deserves to win best actress for blubbering over that dead kitty. Let me get there.
This movie isn’t just about the world of counterfeit memorabilia and the forgers who make dough off it. It’s more than that.
It’s about loneliness. Sadness. Aging. Desperation. It’s about how when you’re young, you have a dream, and then one day, you wake up and you realize you didn’t achieve it, you never will, it’s too late to keep trying. You try your best to give in to this new, sad chapter of life where you go from hoping “IT” will happen, whatever it is to you, and trying to accept it won’t happen.
And yet, that little voice in your head keeps telling you to try. So you keep trying, even though to the world, you look like a loser. Because you’re old and didn’t you get the memo? Old people aren’t supposed to do great things. If they were going to do it, they would have done it already.
Long story short, that kitty was Lee’s BFF. Lee had a prickly personality and had to accept her failure wasn’t just the world being unkind to another writer but also, because she was a drunk who insulted people who were trying to help her, making them less likely to help in the future.
She just didn’t like people. And they didn’t like her. So when that cat croaks, it’s like how a spouse might feel upon the death of a husband or wife, or any family member on the death of another in the family. The cat accepted her and she accepted the cat.
The hottest actresses in Hollywood could never pull off this scene. I don’t care how much ugly makeup you slap on, say, Margot Robbie. You’d know it is still Margot under there. You know Margot will never have to worry about having to keep a cat alive just to prevent herself from being alone. You know Margot could score twenty dicks in thirty seconds just by asking for them if she were so inclined.
Melissa McCarthy isn’t ugly, per se. She’s like the rest of us, average. In fact, she’s uglied up for this film, given messy hair, extra wrinkles, etc. She’s convincing as a person who dreamed big. Thought she’d be a great, wealthy, respected writer. And her plan didn’t work out. And so, now she’s old. And alone. Watching TV with her cat. Regretting breaking up with her long gone lesbian lover. She knows her life will never be what she wanted it to be. She’s bitter over the unlucky breaks the world sends her. And so, the cat is the tipping point. The last middle finger the world has given her and she can’t take it anymore. She’s tired of never getting what she wants out of life and the fact that God can’t even let her keep her kitty makes her snap into a blubbering mess.
Bonus points for Richard E. Gant. If you’re a nerd, you’ve seen him in a lot of nerdy stuff. Dr. Who. Game of Thrones. Logan. He’s one of those actors you’ve seen in so many things. You’re like, “I know that guy, he was in…” whenever you see him in a movie. This role finally gives him the reward of becoming the guy whose name you know.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Bonus points for the message that when your life is in the dumper, no one can pull you out of the trash but you. Somehow, you have to keep going in spite of the odds against you. Obviously, (spoiler) the success isn’t in the forgery but in pulling herself together when she is caught.
We’ve all had that moment where we break down and cry as we realize life is going to be a dick and not deal us the cards we need to make the life we want possible. Maybe we weren’t holding a dead kitty when he had that nervous breakdown, but we’ve all freaked when we realize we must accept that what we want and what life will allow us to have are two very different things.