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Why Melissa McCarthy could be set for Oscar success with Can You Ever Forgive Me?


Best known for her roles in blockbuster comedies Bridesmaids and Spy, the unstoppable Melissa McCarthy now has her sights set on the Oscars, with her latest role in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

It's based on the remarkable true story of struggling biographer Lee Israel (played by McCarthy in the film), who successfully managed to duplicate a number of esteemed literary works, and subsequently made a fortune from selling both forged and stolen documents and letters.

Here's why we think the all-conquering McCarthy could be taking home the gold this time around…

Melissa McCarthy has been Oscar-nominated before

McCarthy's hilarious supporting role in Bridesmaids did in fact land her an Oscar nomination in 2012. While she ultimately lost out to Octavia Spencer for her moving role in The Help, the nomination certainly showed that McCarthy was a comedic force to be reckoned with. As the larger-than-life Megan, McCarthy single-handedly managed to upstage all of her fellow bridesmaids, which included established comedic actors such as Kristen Wiig.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is certainly a very different brand of movie, showcasing McCarthy's skills in the dramatic arena. Given the fact that she has lost out before, it would be great to see the Academy acknowledge her progression from comic scene-stealer to acting force-of-nature some eight years later.

There's certainly some fierce competition in the Best Actress category this year, including Olivia Colman's acclaimed turn in historical black comedy The Favourite, but Melissa McCarthy has earned her place among them.

She once again proves she's a terrific team player

Sometimes, the actors supporting the main star are capable of drawing out their best qualities. McCarthy herself demonstrated this Bridesmaids, wonderfully playing off the wider ensemble, and she's back at it again in her new movie.

While McCarthy is very much the star of Can You Ever Forgive Me? popular British character actor Richard E. Grant shares fabulous chemistry with her, playing Israel's louche, acid-tongued drinking buddy Jack Hock. 

While they might seem like the unlikeliest of duos, McCarthy and Grant's on-screen relationship has been hailed for its warmth and conviction. And their off-screen chemistry is also dynamite – as proof of that, check out the Can You Ever Forgive Me? premiere at Cineworld Leicester Square, which both actors attended.

It's arguably Grant's reliably eccentric presence (celebrated in the likes of Withnail and I) that causes McCarthy to up her game and give what is her finest performance so far.

There's also another very familiar face in the movie, with McCarthy's real-life husband Ben Falcone also having a small role. Where McCarthy goes, Falcone inevitably goes as well – not only did he cameo to brilliantly funny effect in Bridesmaids, he's also directed his spouse in movies such as Tammy and Life of the Party.

The Oscars do love a true story

The Oscars love to throw surprises our way, but if there's one thing we know for certain, it is that they love a true story. And given Can You Ever Forgive Me? very much falls under that category, it is certain to get the voting committee's attention.

One recent example of such a movie is the highly acclaimed Spotlight, the dramatisation of the Boston Globe's investigation into historic child abuse within the Catholic church. The movie, directed by Thomas McCarthy and starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, walked away with the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The movie's commitment to fact and its authentic depiction of journalism meant it was received with near-unanimous praise.

There's a lot of strong competition for this year's Best Picture Oscar (the likes of A Star is Born and The Favourite are just two of them) but, going by their past track record, it's highly likely the fact-based Can You Ever Forgive Me? will at least be nominated in some key Academy Awards categories.

The movie proves McCarthy's versatility

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is in many ways a humorous story but it's a very different kind of comedy to that which McCarthy usually practises. It's a lot more subtle and nuanced as opposed to the brash comedy of some of her previous films, yet still showcases her impeccable comedic timing in new and exciting ways.

When an actor can successfully make the switch from comedy to a more serious or dramatic role, it is perhaps inevitable that the Academy will sit up and take notice. Previously known for their comedic performances, actors such as Robin Williams and Steve Carrell both received attention for their roles in Good Will Hunting (1997) and Foxcatcher (2014) respectively, proving that when an actor can perhaps surprise or do something different, Oscar recognition usually follows.

Hoping to follow in their footsteps, McCarthy is set to surprise many with her performance in this film. Those going in expecting prat-falling and belly laughs may well find themselves surprised – Can You Ever Forgive Me? proves Melissa McCarthy really is a fantastic actress with a broader range than many would expect.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is released in Cineworld on 1st February 2019, so tweet us @Cineworld with your thoughts on Melissa McCarthy's Oscar chances.

Sarah Buddery is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.