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Can You Ever Forgive Me?  (DVD)


Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E Grant, Dolly Wells, Gregory Korostishevsky, Jane Curtin, Ben Falcone, Stephen Spinella

Director: Marielle Heller

Leonore 'Lee' Israel (McCarthy) is a dumpy 51-year-old New Yorker who has written a couple of well-received biographies, but has been inactive for some time, and is unable to sell her idea of a biog of 1930s' 'Funny Girl' Fanny Brice.

On her beam ends and borderline alcoholic, the lesbian Lee has few friends outside of her cat Jersey (Towne) and the randily gay Jack Hock (Grant). Caustic and foul-mouthed and living in a tip of an apartment, Lee is forced to sell her possessions, including a framed letter by Katharine Hepburn.

Still researching Fanny Brice, she comes across a letter actually written by Fanny (which she steals and sells) and the germ of an idea is born. Skilfully forging signatures, using her own writing skills and typing letters the famous might have written, Lee 'forges' ahead with what soon assumes the proportions of a cottage industry, as hundreds of dollars pass into her hands from the coffers of eager collectors.

Despite the excellence of McCarthy's lead performance, and the ripe ham of Grant's support, the story, a true one of course, isn't frantically interesting by itself, and could really be told just as, if not more effectively at two-thirds the length. Production designer Stephen H Carter excels, though, in the depiction of Lee's grubby flat and the bars and gay dives of the local area in 1991.

David Quinlan

USA 2018. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight). Colour (unspecified).
102 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 10 Jun 2019