Movie Review: Best Sellers

Lucy Stanbridge (Aubrey Plaza) has recently taken the reigns of her father’s namesake publishing company, and after 3 poorly received books in a row, she is on the brink of being forced to sell to her ex-boyfriend Jack (Scott Speedman). She wants nothing more than to prove herself to be as capable as her father was, and so begins desperately trying to find something she can use to give the house’s sales a boost when she stumbles upon a contract with author Harris Shaw (Michael Caine), which states that he still owes them one more book on an old advance. His first, and only, book was a huge hit for the company, but he hasn’t been heard from in 50 years. With the help of her assistant Rachel (Ellen Wong), Lucy is able to track him down, and since he won’t answer his phone, the pair drive out to his home to speak in person.

As with most recluses, he isn’t exactly elated by the sudden company, pointing a shotgun at the pair upon first meeting, but Lucy is determined and so stands her ground and asks for a manuscript. Harris ultimately refuses and sends them on their way, but as Lucy is back in New York on the verge of signing the company away, he has a change of heart and drops off a new novel in person at the last moment. Lucy is elated and immediately begins planning a massive push, but Harris’ crass and curmudgeonly behavior makes actually selling any copies surprisingly difficult.

Caine is excellent as the brilliant but tormented and querulous author and Plaza more than handles her own against him. There isn’t really anything groundbreaking about the story as it follows the typical “cranky older person learns to appreciate life again after being forced out of their shell by a strong-willed younger person” plot, and the direction is pretty by-the-book, but it still manages to keep the viewer engaged and tugs at our heartstrings when needed. The behind-the-scenes peeks at the publishing world are well-handled and inject a little satirical bite into the proceedings, so it is a shame that there aren’t more of them, though one of the marketing ploys employed to push his book is a clever, recurring touch. At one point this was rumored to be Michael Caine’s last role, and while that has turned out not to be the case, this imperfect but charming little movie would have made for a sweet goodbye. ★★★

NOT rated. contains frequent strong language and smoking.

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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