A formulaic but enjoyable comedy drama, Best Sellers sees Michael Caine’s cranky author gets a new boost of life thanks to Aubrey Plaza’s struggling young publisher. Caine, who at 88 is still at the top of his game, plays Harris Shaw, an author who had one massive hit back in the 1970s, Atomic Autumn. Plaza has inherited her father’s publishing empire, but is struggling to break even, with her recent YA novels being lambasted by 10-year-olds online and ex-boyfriend Scott Speedman waiting in the wings to buy her out.
Plaza needs a hit, and together with a supremely amiable assistant played by Ellen Wong, searches out her back catalogue finding Harris Shaw’s details and discovering he owes the publishing house a book. Plaza’s father had edited his first book, but he is committed to writing another, which does not have to be edited so long as he engages with a publicity tour. Plaza seeks him out, and the grumpy, rifle-wielding, Johnnie Walker-drinking author is persuaded to do a publicity tour, which goes south as he tells his audiences that it’s all “bullshite”, urinates on his new book and is generally unpleasant.
Becoming a viral sensation because of his antics, Plaza starts to have a hit on her hands. There are some sharp sideswipes at the publishing industry, where marketing of books is more important than the book itself: Shaw’s books are even burnt by those who bought them at one point. Naturally, however, Caine’s hard exterior hides a deep tragedy and heartbreak and he bonds with Plaza, the two of them making a winning odd couple.
Caine is superb, with old Parkinson interviews showing him in his youth, and he adds a melancholic, poignant gravitas as this haunted misanthrope. Antony Grieco’s script occasionally clunks and there are a few questionable tonal shifts, but Caine and Plaza breezily paper over them, creating a warm, moving film, steered with sensitivity by director Lina Roessler. A satisfying cinematic page turner.
Dir: Lina Roessler (15, 102 mins)
Released via digital download on Mon 18 Oct
words KEIRON SELF
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