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Nothing to forgive here. It’s a witty, intuitive script with even-handed direction from Marielle Heller and a story that is unexpectedly compelling. Set in New York, 1991 and based on the true story of Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a relatively successful biography writer who, at age 51, falls out of favour with her publisher and loses her day job due to an uncontrollable misanthropic temperament. Out of desperation, she sells a personal letter written by Katharine Hepburn and discovers there’s a market for such things, leading her to venture into the criminal world of forgery. 

The performances are excellent all round with McCarthy a revelation in the non-comic lead role. Richard E. Grant plays Jack Hock, a boisterous, camp, down and out gay man who befriends Israel and becomes a kind of side kick. Neither character is particularly likeable, yet they have the “can’t look away” appeal of a car crash. Grant has the kind of screen presence that makes him a scene stealer, but in this movie, he works in perfect complement to McCarthy.

An Oscar contender. 

★★★★

Reviewed by Rita Bratovich