Can You Ever Forgive Me tells the true story of Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a writer of biographies in the 1980’s-1990’s. Lee was moderately successful in her writing. As the film opens, she is planning to write a biography of entertainer Fanny Brice, although her agent and publisher show no interest in the project.
Lee is running out of money, and needs to find some way to pay the rent. In her research on Fanny Brice, Lee comes across a letter written and signed by Fanny. She takes it to a book store. The owner tells Lee she will buy it for a modest amount. However, the letter would be worth a lot more if it was more substantial. Lee forges a P.S. on the letter, and sells it to the book store. Seeing this as an easy way to make some money, Lee begins to forge other letters by literary celebrities, including Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker. She soon is selling these forged letters and signatures for several hundred dollars apiece.