BEST SELLERS – Review by Pam Powell
Young millennial meets old timer to win one another over. Yes, it’s been done before but not with the likes of Aubrey Plaza and Michael Caine and a script that hooks you, pulls you along for the ride and then reels you in to make your heart sing. That’s exactly what happens in Best Sellers, written by Anthony Grieco and directed by Lina Roessler.
Caine’s character of renowned and reclusive author Harris Shaw dives deeply into the definition of curmudgeon. Wallowing in a sea of alcohol and more books and clutter surrounding him than a Hoarders show portrays, Shaw is visited by Lucy Stanbridge (Plaza), the daughter and new CEO of a formerly successful publishing house run by her father. The company is struggling and realizing that Shaw had an unfulfilled obligation to present another book, Lucy and her sweet, timid assistant Rachel (Ellen Wong) confront him to do so. It’s the company’s only chance at getting out from under the suffocating pile of debt. The meeting doesn’t go so well, but to their unsuspecting delight, Shaw, just in the nick of time from being bought by Lucy’s nemesis Jack Sinclair, plops his most recent coffee-stained manuscript on her desk. He saves the day…or does he?
The book is published and according to his contract, as the detail-oriented young CEO points out, Shaw must market the book with a book tour. Never have two people been more polar opposite as they work toward the same goal. Undermining Lucy every step of the way as she drives the British-made vehicle, the demanding author makes the tour a living hell. But as luck would have it, he is a social media sensation. Go figure. These crazy realities resonate throughout the entire film as the term #Bullshite reverberates across the globe, unfortunately, accompanied by no book sales.
Best Sellers could have easily been a silly, over-the-top portrayal of a cranky old guy who learns from the youngster and vice versa, but it’s not. The situations they find themselves in are as novel as the passages read from the fictional book, eliciting humor as it builds on the foundation for future comic moments, driving the premise of the story forward.
For Shaw, it’s the road well-traveled and while he’s seen and experienced it all, losing hope in the future, Lucy’s naïveté and educational excellence helps her handle all the bumps on the road as well as the detours Shaw dictates. And while we think we know how this familiar story ends, we don’t. Grieco gives us the perfect ending to warm our hearts as we smile involuntarily. It’s the journey of the developing relationship that truly matters.
Bringing authenticity to a story like this requires the two lead actors to have not just skill, but chemistry and Plaza with Caine have it. Initially finding disdain with one another as their characters are thrust together begrudgingly, the two gradually and naturally begin to tolerate and perhaps even respect and like one another. The actors’ comedic skills work in perfect harmony, one playing off the other, utilizing situations to underscore the naturally humorous moments. We would expect nothing less from Caine, but Plaza shows us she has more than her snarky, sassy persona as an actor. She finds a more subtle and complicated one which ultimately give her “Lucy” depth and reality.
Best Sellers is a simple story with complex issues, natural comedic moments, and characters with whom we become invested emotionally. It’s a perfect example of building that bridge to connect the generations, appreciating the wisdom of age and the drive and skills of someone younger. Perhaps we could take a page or two from “Best Sellers” and realize that we all have something to bring to the table and learn from one another…it’s not “bullshite” at all.
3 ½ Stars