Best Sellers – film review

Palace Electric Cinema, Canberra
To 8 December 2021 as part of the British Film Festival
Comedy, 100 min

Reviewed by Barbie Robinson

I must be honest and say that I would happily watch Michael Caine in almost anything on screen – oh that voice!. This film was classic Caine in the role of crotchety, cantankerous alcoholic writer Harris Shaw, whose novel (decades before the start of the film) put the Stanbridge family publishing house on the map.

When Lucy Stanbridge (Aubrey Plaza) inherits the publishing house, she faces the reality of a struggling business with a string of failed titles. She soon discovers the company is owed a book by Harris Shaw, and tries to save the business by invoking the terms of his advance as well as going on a promotional book tour with him.  Enter the road movie.

It turns out to be a hellish experience due to Shaw’s outrageous behaviour but at the same time he attracts a whole new generation of cult followers, captivated by his ‘bullshite’ catcall. And along the way, they become friends.

As the movie moves along, we come to understand the reasons for Shaw’s anger and bitterness and Lucy eventually learns some home truths about her previously idolised father.

This is a story about love and grief. It’s probably going to be condemned for its lack of originality and its sentimentality, but I refer you to my opening paragraph.

Aubrey Plaza also holds her own playing opposite Caine, no mean feat. And who doesn’t need Shaw’s advice to Lucy: ‘Be brave, be truthful, even the worst of us get lucky’.

I found Best Sellers to be both funny and affecting as a study of the way different people react to loss. Perhaps we all just bring our lives to the screen no matter what we are watching. In addition, for anyone with the slightest smattering of knowledge about the modern book industry it is full of sad truths.

 Best Sellers was an official selection at the Berlin International Film Festival.

  • Director – Lina Roessle
  • Cast – Michael Caine, Aubrey Plaza, Scott Speedman, Cary Elwes, Ellen Wong, Veronica Ferres