Can You Ever Forgive Me? ★★★★

The story of a modest blitz of fraudulence on the part of disgraced, cantankerous New York-based author Lee Israel is brought to screen with a tough-minded, melancholy but witty approach via the director of the underrated, equally stark and unsentimental Diary of a Teenage Girl. It's hard to imagine what this weird, mournful dark comedy would've looked like with Julianne Moore under the direction of Nicole Holofcenter, as was originally planned; Melissa McCarthy so deeply embodies Israel's uncompromising cynicism and impatience with humanity, and the film as it exists is so adept at locating not just the soul of an extremely difficult character but the oppressive encroachment of dismal loneliness and the pallid tones of hard-won-and-not-worth-it urban life, the tale seems staked out and owned by those who've finally made it. The brightest spot in this dead-end is the periodic appearance of Richard E. Grant's cheerfully alcoholic layabout, who ought to have bagged that Oscar; that we see this when Lee cannot is as adept a way as any to define the frustrations of this kind of hopeless fringe existence, in which glimpses of happiness are mere scraps among the detrius. A stunning but horribly real film, made more hopeless and dreary yet by its complete grasp of, and empathy toward, its characters; at least Kelly Reichardt's cringeworthy documents of miscommunication have the respite of being fictitious.