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Best Sellers (A Movie Review)


Best Sellers

Starring Michael Caine, Aubrey Plaza, Ellen Wong, Scott Speedman, Cary Elwes, Luc Morrisette, Veronica Ferres, Frank Schorpion, Florence Situ, Philip Le Maistre, Linda Joyce Nourse, Sebree Laurie, Briauna James, Charli Birdgenaw, Massimo Diem, Sofia Timotheatos, Victoria Sanchez, Elana Dunkelman, Alexandra Petrachuk and Thomas Niles.

Screenplay by Anthony Greico.

Directed by Lina Roessler.

Distributed by Screen Media Films. 102 minutes. Not Rated.

It’s kind of amazing that there would be a movie about something as dated as a book tour in the new millennium, a time when the publishing world is more interested in eBooks and Kindle sales than driving from town to town to small bookstores. Best Sellers almost feels a bit like a period piece, but it takes place in the present day. Yet, even though the storyline is not exactly fresh, Best Sellers makes for charming company during most of its running time, before it gets a little overwrought towards the end.

Best Sellers is hardly the most original story either, and yet through a sweetly charming and just slightly jaded screenplay and a spectacular performance by the always welcome Michael Caine – as well as Aubrey Plaza playing nice counterpoint – it actually turns out to be a pretty good little film. Nothing earth-shattering, but a good-hearted, fun and funny old-fashioned road-trip drama.

Caine plays Harris Shaw, an ornery elderly writer. 50 years ago, he was a cause celebre due to his debut novel, which was critically acclaimed and popular, and is still considered to be a bit of a classic. Still, after all these years, he has never been able to follow it up. He has become a recluse, constantly working on manuscripts that he never feels are worthy of publishing, so he just gives up on them and never even sends them in to his publisher.

Never heard that storyline, huh?

Eventually his publisher dies. His daughter Lucy Stanbridge (Plaza) has taken over the company, and it is failing spectacularly. Her plan to specialize in Young Adult novels has fizzled spectacularly. She’s nearly out of money, has no potentially commercial projects in the pipeline, and can’t afford to get into a bidding war with bigger publishing houses. If things don’t turn around quickly, she will be forced to sell off her dad’s company to her nemesis, a smug competing publisher.

While going through the company records, looking for a miracle to save the company, she finds that Shaw still contractually owes them one more book. Seeing it as a last longshot chance to save her father’s company and his legacy, she visits Shaw and reminds him of his contract. He gives her an old manuscript but insists that it be put out as is – no editing at all. Lucy is desperate enough to agree.

Sales start slowly, but as their book tour becomes a fiasco – Shaw petulantly refuses to read from his book, instead just repeating the word “bullshite” or actually peeing on a copy – a funny thing happens. Shaw’s obstinance and unruly behavior starts to go viral online. Suddenly he’s known everywhere as the “bullshite” guy. Eventually, the publicity starts the book selling.

So far, so good right? It’s a funny idea, well presented. Shaw and Lucy butt heads in bars and hotels and bookstores across country and by complete happenstance luck into a bit of success.

Of course, this is a movie, so eventually you figure they will come to have a grudging respect for each other. Best Sellers actually holds out on this development for a promisingly long time, however once it happens it happens a bit too quickly – one argument and Shaw is suddenly a protective father figure. Still, at this point, the film is still good company, a sweet, good-natured look at two outcasts against the world.

Eventually, though, Best Sellers starts plucking on the heartstrings, and while it does not undo the positive vibes we have towards the story, it does become a bit of a lesser, more-obvious story.

However, even if Best Sellers falls apart a bit in the final chapters, it is a breezy and mostly very agreeable tale.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: September 18, 2021.

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