Combining comedy, drama and biography, Marielle Heller’s sharp directorial work Can You Ever Forgive Me? is engaging and stirring. These diverse genres successfully merge together in under 2 hours thanks to the stellar casting: Melissa McCarthy very unusually plays a fairly serious character, even receiving a nomination for the Best Actress Oscar. The dubious counterpart to her character is played by Richard E. Grant, nominated as Best Supporting Actor. All in all, the compelling cast conveys a true story of forged letters in the film’s illusory world. In contrast, we, as your reputable escort service, send you a real personality to get to know – all real, no pretence.


The ambivalent content of the film, which is based on an eponymous autobiography by Leonore Carol “Lee” Israel, deals with a number of controversial topics. To the delight of cinephiles, the smart American drama renounces any unnecessary dramatization: the 15-rated film handles the conflict between how things are and how they appear to be with deft humour and subtlety – as your escort service, we have the pleasure of providing you with true 18-rated magic, no conflict involved! The screen adaptation of the biographer’s biography, which came out in February, plays with reality and its interpretation. Melissa McCarthy delivers a sterling performance as aggressive Lee Israel, who died in 2014. During the 80s, Israel produced letters allegedly written by several prominent figures and sold the counterfeits very lucratively. The large sums of money and false information left traces, which ultimately attracted the attention of the FBI.

In the real past that unfolded, unresolved questions were answered. The viewer, however, is left with the unanswered riddle as to which of today’s “realities” will tomorrow turn out to be illusions and will unravel. In the motherland of bizarre theories for alleged conspiracies, Can You Ever Forgive Me? certainly has special significance. Globally, too, with the increasing density of content comes the question: What really happened and what is really happening, and what only exists in the minds of some? Allow our escort service to bring to life the wonderful cinematic scenes playing inside your head.

Heller’s production, full of contrasts and real details, sees the protagonist’s solitude as loneliness: alone in the mass of a metropolis, Israel lives in her own highly creative world. The sophisticated letters she created thus fused prominent facts and subtle fiction into plausibility. At the same time, the ill-tempered Lee follows her own private ethic, preferring the company of her beloved cat to that of humans. Some of Lee’s cohort still invite the misanthropic author to parties. At these parties, the obstinate heroine ignores superficial conversations in favour of drinking too much. As a biographer, Lee Israel publishes her books without making significant sales. Her financial decline unfolds without any drama: first, contact ceases with Lee’s agent Marjorie, deftly played by Jane Curtin; then the beloved pet falls ill; overdue rent payments start accumulating. Here, necessity is the mother of innovation: the autobiographer forges letters from the pen of Noël Coward and other greats. The enthusiasm (or rather, the coffers) of duped antiquarians restores Lee’s finances, until the Federal Bureau of Investigation gets involved. After that, sales negotiations delegated to Lee’s gay confidant Jack (Richard E. Grant) also fall flat. Finally, the delusion of the deceiving and the deceived dissolves into reality: the fraud is brought before a court.

Lee Israel first stepped onto the stage of life in 1939 in Brooklyn, and departed from it in the real-life movie set of mad Manhattan. She financed her way through the 1970s with biographies of public figures. Later, she discovered forgery as a source of income, which only came to an end in 1993 when she was convicted.

Israel’s autobiography – which cynics may doubt is from her own hand – appeared in 2008. In any case, many were incensed by the revenue that the forger made with this portrayal of her fraud – beyond the amounts that her scam generated at the time.

Marielle Heller’s reposeful movie gives Melissa McCarthy the opportunity to showcase her talents beyond typical American comedy. Her brusque Lee Israel symbolises strong independence from people together with a clear dependence on alcohol. A dystopian New York, teeming with people, forms the dark backdrop. It is the perfect setting for McCarthy’s compelling interpretation, without hiding or blurring her faceted character: the multifaceted nature of the spry protagonist shines through in many small moments and details. Just as meticulous is Richard E. Grant’s depiction of Jack, Lee’s HIV-positive companion. The bon vivant, already afflicted by AIDS, serves as an unreliable partner in crime. For any viewers with conventional moral standards, the divine brilliance of the odd duo’s silent misdeeds may cause some friction.

Lee’s creative power is particularly apparent in the letters alleged to be by Dorothy Parker: the autarchic style of this influential author of the 1920s and 30s has only ever been credibly copied by one other wordsmith. In fact, two of her other forgeries even found their way into a special edition by Barry Day, a renowned Coward expert. Depending on the viewer’s perspective, Heller’s feature film can be seen as a tribute to or history of a forger, as reflected in the title: Can You Ever Forgive Me? was one of Lee’s inventions in a letter supposedly by Parker.


Film buffs mostly associate Melissa McCarthy with comic roles, which makes her earnest Lee Israel all the more captivating. The actress, born in 1970 in Illinois, USA, also works as a TV director and film producer. She also contributes to the industry as a scriptwriter. McCarthy earned her acting stripes in the harsh school of stand-up comedy in a cynical New York. At the same time, she attended regular classes at the renowned Actors Studio. Nowadays, in addition to bringing her lead roles to life, she enjoys her many contributions in smaller parts. Prior to her nomination for the role of Lee Israel, McCarthy received another for the 2012 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as Megan in Bridesmaids. In 2015, she got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – number 2552. That same year, the multitalented American founded her fashion label Seven7. In the style of a true comedy, McCarthy picked up a Golden Raspberry Award for less well-received performances in exactly the same year as her nomination for Can You Ever Forgive Me? As the third most successful actress on the planet, it won’t phase her.

McCarthy’s co-star Jane Curtin, born in 1947 in Massachusetts, USA, first made a name for herself on Saturday Night Live. The vast majority of her career has been in series. For instance, she starred in 137 episodes of 3rd Rock from the Sun, a well-established cult classic. Curtin made a significant contribution to the cold start of the now-legendary Saturday Night Live. The US comedy show has been running since 1975 and has helped a large number of actors break through. Curtin was there for the first ensemble, together with Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. Curtin’s interpretation of the reputable bookkeeper Marjorie comes up against Richard E. Grant’s criminal part. The Swazi-English actor received several nominations for his portrayal of the unreliable Jack Hock. At the end of the 1970s, the exceptionally successful TV and film actor (born in 1957 in Mbabane, Swaziland, now the Kingdom of Eswatini) studied English and Drama at the University of Cape Town. In 1979, Grant founded the Troupe Theatre Company there, with both black and white members. In South Africa at that time, this composition of the ensemble was still highly provocative. Grant’s first major directorial work was staged by the Troupe Theatre Company. Despite his very productive career, he has rarely played leading roles. He has, however, contributed to films by well-known directors such as Altman, Coppola and Scorsese.


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