Can You Ever Forgive Me?

canyoueverforgiveme

Lee Isreal (Melissa McCarthy) is not an easy person to like. She lacks the social graces. She drinks to excess. She is a bit of a slob.

She does have writing talent. She’s a published author. When her career hits the skids, she turns to another kind of writing.

One might be prone to feel sorry for her. However, as her agent (Jane Curtin) and her ex-partner (Anna Deavere Smith) point out, her off-putting behavior is of her own doing. Isreal even admits she like cats more than she likes people.

Isreal’s scheme is to produce notes and letters she claims were written by now deceased literary figures. “Can you ever forgive me?” is the tagline on a note she crafts and presents as having come from Dorothy Parker. She sells these letters to bookstores who sell them to collectors.

[Sidebar: I went to my first baseball card show in Willow Grove PA in 1981 and saw autographed photos of big league ballplayers for sale. I noticed the signatures all looked alike. In 1998, Mark McGwire went into card shops around the US and found items alleged to have been autographed by him. He said they were not authentic. Two conclusions, which Isreal also reached: People are suckers and there is a lot of fake stuff out there.]

Isreal buys vintage typewriters and consults old printed matter to crib material for these letters. But she and her drinking buddy Jack (Richard Grant) make a couple of errors that lead to her getting caught by the feds for her fraudulent practice.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? features a different Melissa McCarthy. She’s not completely unfunny. Her character has a nasty sense of humor. But the energetic, vibrant, fearless McCarthy from her comedy roles is dialed way, way down. Her look is muted, plain. And her character is, as mentioned, a sad sack of a human. Is this a role that can net McCarthy an awards nomination? Stay tuned.

There’s a flash of the more familiar Melissa McCarthy when Isreal makes a statement to the judge during a court proceeding.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is not a crowd-pleaser type of film. But for all who have appreciated Melissa McCarthy’s comedic work in movies and TV, this movie reveals that she definitely can handle a wider range of roles.

 

 

 

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The Boss

Melissa McCarthy is a likable, funny woman. Unfortunately, not all of her movies are likable and funny. The Boss is hard to like and not particularly funny. And while storylines for comedies are often dumb, this one is particularly so.

Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) is a self-made financial success who screwed over a lot of people on her way up the ladder. One of them is former boyfriend Renault (Peter Dinklage) who leads investigators to nab her for insider trading.

After her jail time, she crashes with her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and Claire’s daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). Michelle tags along to a Dandelion meeting (a Girl Scouts sort of group) and takes over. When Claire agrees to mass produce brownies, Michelle recruits Dandelions to jump ship and help sell the brownies.

The street fight between the Dandelions and the Darnell’s Darlings is a funny highlight, well-staged by director Ben Falcone (McCarthy’s real life husband). But the rest of the film leaves much to be desired.

Michelle takes the production of the brownies to a much larger scale and sells the company to Renault. Later, she and Claire attempt to steal back the brownie recipe from Renault, leading to the film’s resolution.

The Boss is a mess. Not nearly as funny as it should be. And while crude humor is fine with me if it’s funny, crude humor for the sake of shocking an audience, as in The Boss, is embarrassing. And I was disappointed that appearances by the usually strong Kristen Schaal and Kathy Bates’s were essentially wasted.

Unless you’re a member of the Melissa McCarthy fan club and you thought Tammy was a decent film, take a pass on The Boss.

McCarthy’s got talent and charm and she can make you laugh until you cry. But those big laughs and tears will have to wait for another Melissa McCarthy movie.

 

 

 

Get Hard

 

Get Hard is a crude, rude equal opportunity offender: Blacks, Whites, Gays, Latinos, etc. Not for the thin-skinned.

Get Hard is a funny movie that gives Kevin Hart almost as high a profile as Will Ferrell. Obviously, the film’s producers are trying to hit the urban market as well as the general market and I’m guessing they’ll have some success.

James King (Ferrell) is an L.A. money trader who is beaucoup rich. He’s engaged to his boss’s smokin’ hot daughter (Alison Brie). Darnell (Kevin Hart) is the hard-working owner of a luxury carwash whose customers include James.

When James is busted for fraud and sentenced to ten years in San Quentin, he hires Darnell to get him hard enough to survive his time behind bars. James has mistakenly presumed that Darnell has been in jail. Since he offers Darnell money he needs, Darnell lets James believe what he wants.

Darnell turns James’s mansion into a fake prison. The tennis court becomes the prison yard, the setting for a memorable scene in which Hart portrays black, Latino and gay prison types. Bravo, Kevin!

This cross-culture journey takes James and Darnell to a gay restaurant, a “crib” in the ‘hood and a white power motorcycle club’s hangout. There are moments that are uncomfortable for James, Darnell or both, as well as for the audience. But, again, there are laughs to be had.

Ferrell’s character is a Harvard grad who knows his way around the world of investments. Still, he is buffoonish in a Burgundyesque sort of way—enough so that he’s the goofy Ferrell we know and love.

As big star Sandra Bullock did with the lesser-known Melissa McCarthy in 2013’s The Heat, so does big star Ferrell allow Hart plenty of room to showcase his strong talents in Get Hard.

If you can handle the offensive nature of much of the Get Hard’s script, you’ll find some funny stuff here.

Also in the cast is Craig T. Nelson and singer John Mayer. This film was directed by Etan Cohen, not to be confused with Ethan Cohen of the Cohen brothers directing team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Vincent

St. Vincent is a movie whose outcome you can predict as soon as it begins. Even though the destination may be preordained, the journey is fun, sweet and, at moments, poignant.

Bill Murray is Vincent, a curmudgeon who lives alone in a non-descript section of Brooklyn. Single mom Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) make an auspicious arrival as Vincent’s new neighbors when their moving guys take out a tree limb and part of Vincent’s fence with their truck.

Maggie goes to work and Oliver goes to school. When Maggie has to work late, she hires Vincent to babysit the lad (who appears to be about 10 years old). While mom works, Vincent shares his world with Oliver, taking the kid to the horse track and a bar. He also introduces Oliver to pregnant stripper/hooker Daka (Naomi Watts with a bad Russian accent).

When Oliver is bullied at school, Vincent suggests a technique to take down his bigger intimidators. It works extremely well. (Charismatic Irish actor Chris O’Dowd is a priest who is one of Oliver’s teachers at school.)

As the movie proceeds, more of Vincent’s life is revealed and the grizzled old guy with a bad attitude is shown to have human emotions. He may not have a heart of gold, but at least he has a heart.

Bill Murray has been handed a role that’s perfect for him. His Vincent is not just a caricature, he’s a real guy, like you see on the street everyday. Murray should get awards consideration. But because he makes playing Vincent look so easy, he may be overlooked. The other performances are solid, but Murray carries the movie, so he is due the greater amount of acclaim.

First time director/screenwriter Theodore Melfi, a man with Missouri roots, has assembled a movie that’s funny but also brings real human emotion to the screen. You may not actually cry, but you’ll laugh. And you’ll ending up liking the key characters, too. (Stick around for the closing credits and Murray’s casual singing of Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm.”)

Tammy

 

Melissa McCarthy is funny. She was hilarious in 2011’s Bridesmaids and in last year’s The Heat. And she brings some laughs in Tammy.

But this movie doesn’t fly. It falls short in the hilarity department. It lacks memorable scenes. And, sadly, McCarthy’s act becomes tiring.

Also, this is another comedy that reveals some of its best stuff in the trailer. (Nonetheless, the trailer is posted above.)

Essentially a road trip movie with Tammy and her grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon), Tammy is blessed with a talented cast. Tammy’s mom Deb (Allison Janney), her dad Don (Dan Aykroyd), Pearl’s cousin Lenore (Kathy Bates), Lenore’s partner Susanne (Sandra Oh), Pearl’s hookup Earl (Gary Cole) comprise a strong crew. Toni Collette plays a mostly silent woman who shacks up with Tammy’s husband (Nat Faxon).

When Tammy catches her husband cheating (after her car hits a deer and she gets fired from her job), she escapes with Pearl on their adventure. After they end up in jail, Pearl uses her remaining cash to bail out Tammy. Tammy then robs a fast food joint to then bail out Pearl.

The robbery is slightly funny. It tries to be one of those “spontaneous” bits with some ad-libs—like the one McCarthy had in 2012’s This Is 40—but it doesn’t quite score a knockout.

McCarthy co-wrote the script with her husband Ben Falcone, who directed. Falcone (who played the air marshall in Bridesmaids) also plays the boss who fires her early in the movie.

Tammy is the kind of movie to watch on cable or Netflix sometime next year. You’ll be somewhat amused but not overwhelmed.

 

 

 

The Heat

Congratulations to Melissa McCarthy for making a hilarious movie! Congratulations to Sandra Bullock for giving McCarthy all the room she needs to do her funny business in The Heat.

Bullock follows in the tradition of TV’s Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano and Andy Griffith, all of who were title stars of their sitcoms, but depended on zany sidemen and women to bring the biggest laughs. Bullock brings her considerable charm and infinite likeability to the screen, but Melissa McCarthy as Boston cop Shannon Mullen is the reason to see The Heat.

McCarthy, whose other lead role this year in Identity Thief led to a healthy gross of $135 million, will sell lots of tickets to The Heat with her raunchy, f-bomb-laced riffs and shameless physical humor.

Melissa McCarthy’s agility for a woman of her size is amazing. And her delivery of scriptwriter Katie Dippold’s lines is natural and organic—I’d guess she was given freedom to ad-lib by director Paul Fieg. He also directed Bridesmaids.

By the way, I was told that Bullock claims there are 196 f-bombs in the film.

Bullock as FBI special agent Ashburn is a smug, tightly-wound type A detail person. McCarthy as Mullen is loose, spontaneous and wild. There’s instant animosity between the two. Both are territorial and neither wants to relinquish control.

Bonding takes a while. They share a mutual dislike for not only drug dealers, but also for a pair of DEA agents. As they learn each other’s personal backstories, there’s a bit of sympathy to be shared.

This action/comedy has some grit: people get tied up, shot, stabbed, etc. There’s a pretty good chase scene. It’s rated R and rightly so.

The opening title sequence has a 70’s graphic look and features the song Fight The Power by the Isley Brothers.

The studio (and, presumably, test audiences) liked this movie so much that its release was pushed back from April to late June—a more lucrative, but also more competitive time of year for film box office success. Also, it’s rumored that a sequel is already in the works.

The Heat will make you laugh. And if laughter is what you want and need, don’t miss it.

 

 

This Is 40

Some really funny lines and situations, some great supporting acting performances and two attractive leads should make for a great movie. Instead, This Is 40 is more of a movie stew.

This Is 40 is like a big, bloated sitcom. An R-rated sitcom with F-bombs liberally sprinkled throughout. There’s enough going on here to provide story frameworks for at least a half-dozen sitcom episodes.

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are Pete and Debbie. Both are about to turn 40. Their lives are filled with messy situations. Their sex life is losing sizzle. Pete’s record label is hemorrhaging cash. Debbie’s boutique has an employee stealing money. Their kids are borderline obnoxious. Their fathers load them with more baggage.

Pete and Debbie each have little secrets that they don’t share with one another, like Pete’s obsession with cupcakes and Debbie’s sneaking off to smoke. They also do not fully disclose their respective financial issues.

And Debbie lies about her age. So the climactic 40th birthday party is just Pete’s party (not a joint affair, like they’ve had in past years).

The strongest performances in This Is 40 come from Albert Brooks as Pete’s dad, John Lithgow as Debbie’s dad and Melissa McCarthy as a parent the couple has an issue with. As she did in Bridesmaids, McCarthy steals the show.

Director/writer Judd Apatow delivers a movie that runs 2 hours and fourteen minutes, a bit too long. Judicious use of the editing blade could’ve easily trimmed this into a tighter, more focused movie.

This Is 40 will make you laugh. It may portray situations like some in your own relationship. With the right personnel, This Is 40 could easily transition into a successful TV series. It has a lot of the right stuff, but just a little too much stuff to be as good as it could’ve been.