As you probably got thanks the depth of my Phantom Thread regard last year I love movies that can appreciate the romance in destructive relationships - if anybody asks me what the most romantic gesture I've ever seen in a film is my go-to response has long been when Elisabeth Shue gives Nicholas Cage a flask as a gift in Leaving Las Vegas. Swoon. Marielle Heller's fabulous and caustically funny new film Can You Ever Forgive Me? is nowhere near that bleak, but it's got a platonic love affair for the ages at its heart that's giddily all about two people inspiring the other to be their best awful selves, and the movie sings with sincere affection for their bad behavior, and bless it, bless it for it.
Quite sincerely, there's not a weak spot to be found in this movie. Marielle Heller, two films in (see also the nigh perfect The Diary of a Teenage Girl in 2015), has proven herself the real deal - I might be biased, seeing as how this thing's a love letter to the New York I love, the one of cluttered book-shops and diner food, of wanting to drink in the afternoon and the one of being left the fuck alone in the most crowded place on Earth, but top down CYEFM has a heart as strong as a horse pounding under its hood; it's classic film-making singing with wit and character and grace.
The fact that it also happens to be a classically made and told movie that's about two gay characters, well, that's something to sing about itself. It's so quietly true on the subject, too - just lived in and practical, not at all strenuous in its depiction. You know the hilarious bit in Hannah Gadsby's Nanette special where she says she doesn't really identify as a lesbian, but just as "tired"? This is the movie for us tired queers, and our allies.
And after the lousy year that Melissa McCarthy's had at the movies (might I remind you of Life of the Party and The Happytime Murders no, no I should not remind you of those, sorry) it's a tonic and a relief to be reminded of what a genuine presence she is on-screen. She's been good, she's been great before, but this is her best work to date. And smartly she doesn't shy away from the Melissa-McCarthy-isms that made her a movie star - just, as with the films where Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey actually try to be actors and braid their schtick up with an edgier more melancholy spin, here McCarthy (who unlike those two has always been an actor first and foremost anyway, before being a straight-forward comedian) makes us look at her in a new light. It's a good one.
She benefits from having been given the gift of the most curious and fresh-feeling screen-partnership of the year - the friendship that she and a spectacular Richard E. Grant bring to life before us is a revelatory thing, sweet and bitter in the same bite. You've never seen two characters like this just get to hang out on a movie screen, and two hours is barely enough for me - less than twenty-four hours after watching the film I'm already desperately hoping there are hours of cut footage for the blu-ray to savor. It's not that you get the sense they're riffing a la a Judd Apatow movie or anything (the script by Nicole Holofcener, being a script be Nicole Holofcener, is blisteringly tight) - it's just that they're living. They are living so completely and totally up there on the screen together. It's electric.