In an age where Madonna is considered a show biz genius of a superstar, Lee wants to write a biography of Fanny Brice. Lee won't play the game -- and she should. Her modest apartment is a mess. It's basically a restroom for her cat. Lee hates that talent and history now seem unimportant in the arts scene of the early 1990s.
After feeling humiliated at her agent's party, it's here where CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? takes on a dynamic similar to what we saw in TOOTSIE. Lee, the artist, storms into the office of her high-powered agent and confronts the agent with her unemployment woes and frustrations. Like George (Sydney Pollack) did to actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) in TOOTSIE, the agent verbally slaps the client in the face with some hard facts that the client is his/her own worst enemy. There must be a major attitude change. This inspires the artist to come up with a deception that will keep the desperate artist in money. Eventually, the ruse will lead to a true self and a real voice to emerge.
Hollywood, for years, gave us the same image of lesbians. They were humorless and mannish. This film flips the script on that. Lee composes letters in the voice of the late, great wit Dorothy Parker. Her letters have a Parker-esque humor and she forges the signature. She does this with Noel Coward too. So the drab-looking lesbian Lee turned out to be one of the most shining wits at the agent's sophisticated party -- but her agent never realized it. Buyers believe Lee's cheeky and memorable letters were actually written by Dorothy Parker, Noel Coward and Fanny Brice. Lee makes enough money to get caught up with her bills, to afford food, to take care of her cat and to buy herself more drinks. She meets a flighty middle-aged gay man, still partying like he's 25, and he becomes her accomplice. Jack Hock is good for laughs and he eats up some loneliness in Lee's life but he's as responsible as an 8th grade boy with a blowtorch.
If Tower Records still existed, I would've dashed to one right after the movie to buy a CD of the soundtrack. It's delicious. The CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? soundtrack has selections by Blossom Dearie, Billie Holiday, Jeri Southern, Chet Baker and Marlene Dietrich.
The two former con artists, Lee and Jack, have a meeting. Their lives have changed. As they come to terms with the reality of each other, Marlene Dietrich sings "Illusions" from Billy Wilder's A FOREIGN AFFAIR in the background. An inspired choice for that scene.
McCarthy impressively handles this dramatic material and commits to playing the ugly but totally human side of the character, the side that connects us to her. If you're a Melissa McCarthy fan, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? is worth a look.
Melissa McCarthy received a Golden Globes nomination in the Best Actress category for this drama. Richard E. Grant got a Golden Globes nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category.
No woman was nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Director Motion Picture category. Again, I say that more attention needs to be given women directors. Some promising and excellent work from women is not getting the praise and support it deserves.