Melissa McCarthy is perfect as real-life literary fraudster Lee Israel
CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? SPEC D: Marielle Heller. U.S. 107 min. Sep 9, 3 pm, Scotiabank 2 Sep 15, noon, Princess of Wales. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Melissa McCarthy is a perfect choice to play Lee Israel, the best-selling author who found her true calling in the early 90s as a literary fraudster, writing fake correspondence from the likes of Dorothy Parker and Noël Coward and selling it to collectors for quick cash. Because she was working in the pre-internet days – and because she was a damn good writer – she managed to get away with it for quite a while.
It’s your basic rise-and-fall narrative, given snap and style by screenwriters Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty (I suspect the more cutting observations about entrenched sexism in the New York literary scene are the former’s contribution) and a fine sense of period texture by director Heller (The Diary Of A Teenage Girl), who also gives Richard E. Grant the plum role of Israel’s enabler/accomplice Jack Hock, whom Grant plays as an older, even more rotted version of the shambling alcoholic he embodied in Withnail And I.
Grant and McCarthy have a disreputable chemistry that works like cognac on a winter’s night, warming the film from the inside out. It’s okay to get drunk on it.