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Critic’s Choice: ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ is a tender, acerbic delight

(L-R) - Richard E. Grant as “Jack Hock” and Melissa McCarthy as “Lee Israel” in the film “CAN YOU EV
Richard E. Grant and Melissa McCarthy in the movie “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
(Mary Cybulski / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corpo)
Film Critic

The wonderfully sardonic title of “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” comes from a phony letter concocted by New York literary forger Lee Israel, writing in the acerbic, seemingly inimitable tones of Dorothy Parker. But Israel herself, brilliantly played by Melissa McCarthy, requires no such absolution. Marielle Heller’s sophomore feature is a barbed, tender and lovingly detailed portrait of the artist as a misanthrope with a typewriter, an impoverished, neglected writer who discovered her voice, paradoxically, by assuming the voices of others.

Now available for home viewing, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has been one of the consistent delights of an interminably long awards season. McCarthy and Richard E. Grant, as her wickedly ingratiating partner-in-crime, Jack Hock, received well deserved Oscar nominations for actress and supporting actor, respectively, while Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty are up for adapted screenplay (and deservedly won the Writers Guild of America’s prize in that category).

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justin.chang@latimes.com

@JustinCChang


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