“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (U.S. Rated R)
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin
Genre: Biography, comedy/drama
Two of 2018’s very best acting performances can be seen in one extremely enjoyable place, the comedy/drama “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” – one of the best movies of the year.
Based on her autobiography of the same name, the film follows celebrity biographer Lee Israel, who makes her living profiling the likes of legendary actors Katharine Hepburn and Tallulah Bankhead, cosmetics industry pioneer Estée Lauder and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. But when Lee is no longer able to get published because she has fallen out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception, abetted by her loyal friend Jack.
The almost unbelievable storyline is surprisingly thrilling and suspenseful. These dramatic moments combined with a pronounced and consistently sardonic tone produce a satisfyingly well-rounded picture.
More than anything, though, the film’s strengths lie with the amazing portrayals of two unforgettable characters.
Melissa McCarthy excels as the curmudgeonly Lee Israel. McCarthy has had numerous memorable roles over the years, but this is possibly the best performance of her career. This one character allows her to run through the gamut of emotions, from crotchety to playful to frenzied; we get to see all of what McCarthy is capable as an actress – a wide spectrum indeed.
Which makes it all the more astounding that her supporting co-star, Richard E. Grant, who’s mainly appeared in many small film and television roles, threatens to steal nearly every scene as the fun-loving and mischievous Jack. His interactions with McCarthy are priceless; their witty banter, infectious and energizing. When last have we seen such a dynamic and unbeatable duo?
This stuff is like magnets for awards shows. And with awards season well underway, both McCarthy and Grant have already received quite a few nominations for Best Actress and Supporting Actor, respectively, including at the pending Screen Actors Guild and Critics’ Choice Awards. While they both lost in those categories at the Golden Globes this past Sunday, I would bet several farms that they’ll both receive Oscar nominations when those are announced on January 22.
Released in the United States back in October, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has been playing at The Island House Cinema for the last two weeks.
Make it a point to seek it out however you can. It would be unforgivable to miss it.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @morningblend969.