Watch The Trailer
Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Can You Ever Forgive Me?is primarily a comedy, but one with a good deal of melancholy as well as suspense. Like many films about forgery, it also explores philosophical questions about the difference, if any, between fraud and art.
The film begins in Manhattan, New York in 1991. Lee (McCarthy), a proof-reader working an overnight shift in a law firm and an object of her younger colleagues’ contempt, is fired on the spot, not for drinking on the job (which she’s brazenly doing) but for cursing the young supervisor who reproaches her. A stocky, belligerently unglamorous figure in a pudding-basin haircut, Lee forces her way through life as if gate-crashing a party where she expects to be unwelcome.
After finding, by chance, a letter between the pages of a library book, Lee appropriates it and tries to sell it. Learning that its value would be increased if its contents were spicier, she embellishes it with a flourish of a P.S. based on her deep understanding of her cherished subject. Lee quickly morphs from biographer into impersonator, relying on the same skills that she previously used to evoke sympathy with the people she wrote about.
The film becomes a buddy movie of sorts when she meets Jack Hock (Richard E Grant), an ingratiating British scoundrel who becomes her drinking companion and eventual accomplice. In contrast to Lee’s corrosive personality, Hock is Lee’s polar opposite in almost every way. Where Lee is comfortable being frumpy and grumpy, Hock is charming and dresses up to compensate for his transient lifestyle. She struggles to connect with others, while he connects with almost everyone who crosses his path.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?comes from a place of understanding and love that few other biopics do, and it makes this difficult character a joy to meet.