‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ would be 2nd consecutive film to sweep Best Actress and Supporting Actor Oscars

Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant are two of the most acclaimed actors of this award season thanks to their performances in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Critics are loving McCarthy’s raw, understated portrayal of literary forger Lee Israel and Grant as her wry, scene-stealing friend and accomplice, Jack Hock, to the point that they are both serious contenders to earn matching Oscar nominations. Should they go on to win their categories, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” would repeat the success of last year’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Fox Searchlight is certainly hoping to pull off repeat victories in both categories after Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell did so for “Three Billboards.” The Actress-Supporting Actor winning combo has only been accomplished by five other films in Oscar history: “Hud” (1963) for Patricia Neal and Melvyn Douglas, “Cabaret” (1972) for Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey, “Terms of Endearment” (1983) for Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson, “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) for Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman, and “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951), which not only won Best Actress and Supporting Actor for Vivien Leigh and Karl Malden, but Best Supporting Actress as well for Kim Hunter.

What helps McCarthy and Grant for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” beyond their chemistry and the caliber of their performances is that they both have compelling narratives. McCarthy is already an Oscar nominee for 2011’s “Bridesmaids,” the rare broad comedy performance to be nominated by the Academy, which proves how much the industry loves her. She has become a bona fide movie star in the years since in similarly over-the-top comedy roles, but “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” proves her versatility in a rare dramatic turn. The comedian-gone-serious narrative has helped all sorts of actors through Oscar history, like Robin Williams, Mo’Nique, Art Carney and Jamie Foxx, who all won little gold men after shedding their comedic personas. McCarthy may have tough competition between Glenn Close (“The Wife”), Lady Gaga (“A Star Is Born”) and Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”), but she has such a compelling character and narrative that it could be irresistible for Oscar voters.

Then there’s Grant, who could easily fill the “journeyman actor finally breaking through with an award-worthy role” slot we’ve seen over the past decade especially. Veteran actors like J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”), Octavia Spencer (“The Help”), Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), and last year’s Best Supporting Actor winner himself, all benefited from finally being in a position to be rewarded after all those years of hard work and dedication. Having popped up in various Oscar-winning films in his over 30-year career, from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” to “Gosford Park” to “The Iron Lady,” voters should certainly be familiar with Grant, and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” is such a dynamic showcase for him that you can see voters happily checking his name.

The Marielle Heller-directed film seems to be a serious contender, according to Oscar predictors, with McCarthy and Grant both in fourth place of their respective categories in Gold Derby odds. But if McCarthy and Grant continue to charm voters as they campaign all over Hollywood, both could transition from “the nomination is the reward” to real frontrunner status in no time.

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