Can You Ever Forgive Me? ★★★½

“Can you keep a secret?”
“Who would I tell? All my friends are dead.”

I hate to say it but I was a little bit disappointed by Can You Ever Forgive Me? Not because it is a bad, because it is certainly far from it, but simply because I do not feel like I got the film I was expecting. That is not the film’s fault but it is certainly a factor in my experience that I cannot ignore. What I was hoping for was a cynical black comedy about two tortured, creative souls slumming it late in life in New York City. Instead, Can You Ever Forgive Me? presents as a very well made drama exploring a lot of moral and ethical questions in a reasonably serious and thoughtful way. Certainly not a bad experience but not the one I was really hoping for. 

Obviously the aspect of this production that carries it the most are the performances. Melissa McCarthy proves, if you ever doubted, that she can genuinely act and pulls out a wonderfully compelling performance as Israel. Unsurprisingly, Richard E. Grant steals the show. The character of Hock is a joy to watch and certainly the closest we will ever see to Grant reviving the character of Withnail which is very exciting for a huge fan of that work. 

I love the atmosphere this piece creates. Like all the best suburban tragedies, the city does really feel like a character in the film. There’s a darkness and moodiness to every shot and location we visits which I really liked. It’s a world I enjoyed living in for an hour and forty minutes. At a script level, I found there are a lot of strange moments in this screenplay. A lot of the scenes are written very specifically with very clear dialogue and clever subtext and then some moment are just...odd. What is going in that train scene, DKR example, where Hock is just talking about shopping at a grocer and how nice the bread is. What am I supposed to take from that as an audience member? Is it just a character detail or is it meant to be some kind of satirical joke? I really have no idea and there are a couple of moments like that that leave me oddly perplexed. 

This is only a brief collection of thoughts because I will have to give Can You Ever Forgive Me? a second watch before feeling fully comfortable writing about it. I enjoyed it well enough but not, I think, on its own terms.

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