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DVD Review: Best Sellers – “Light-hearted and enjoyable”

Films depicting cross-generational friendships are not hard to find.  The Intern with Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro comes to mind.   There’s also Finding Forrester, The Karate Kid, and even Back to the Future.  In TV this year we had Selena Gomez joining the likes of Steve Martin and Martin Short in the incredibly enjoyable Only Murders in the Building (highly recommend if you haven’t watched already).  With little time, I’m sure you can think of others to join these ranks, which now also includes Best Sellers, starring Aubrey Plaza and Michael Caine.

Lucy (Plaza) is the head of a publishing house, handed down to her by her father, who unfortunately didn’t also pass along his business acumen.  The publisher is in trouble, its latest release being panned in reviews and collecting dust on the shelves.  Along with Rachel (Ellen Wong), seemingly her only remaining employee, Lucy is desperate to save the company, and along with it, her father’s legacy.  While trying to think of authors they can tap for a sure-fire hit to revitalize the cash flow, they find the contract for Harris Shaw (Caine), a one-hit-wonder author whose last book, Atomic Autumn was released 50 years ago.  The good news? He was paid an advance for a book he never delivered.

The bad news is that Harris is a recluse.  With only his cat and numerous bottles of scotch to keep him company, he lives in a rundown house, writing on his typewriter pages that get crumpled and thrown in the trash, frustrated by the sporadic ringing of his rotary phone.  He’s not in the mood for visitors but when Lucy and Rachel come knocking, he eventually hands over a manuscript and relents to the stipulation that he must go on tour to promote his new creation.  However, Harris ends up going viral, not for reading his book, but for some rather unbecoming behaviour and his frequent use of the word “bullshite.”  Sales of the book are still slow, despite “views” and recognition soaring.  On a mission to save her company, Harris and Lucy embark on an odd-couple-road-trip book tour.  You can probably guess where things go from there.

It’s lovely, yet also slightly odd, seeing Plaza, so well known for quirky, sarcastic, and awkward characters play relatively straight here (the sarcasm still remains intact).  It takes some getting used to.  As publishing executive Lucy, she is all business, yet in the end it’s enjoyable to see the actor push through the confines previous roles have constructed.  Caine, on the other hand, now at 88 years of age, seems to be laying it all out on the table, having an obviously great time as the curmudgeonly author Harris.  How he has the energy I don’t know, but we can continue to be thankful for every addition to his collection of work.

Canadian director Lina Roessler makes her feature directorial debut here and while she certainly seems to get the best from her stars, the rest is safe and expected.  Best Sellers is a simple, gentle movie but it never truly elevates itself past that.  It ends up falling victim to a somewhat formulaic screenplay from Anthony Grieco.  Yet, fans of Caine and/or Plaza will find enjoyable moments as their chemistry hits the mark.  Best Sellers is a light-hearted and enjoyable enough watch for a snowy or rainy winter afternoon, though not apt to stay with you for much longer than that.

DVD extras are a little lean on this disc, and include only a meagre blooper reel, whose most memorable bit involves Caine and his beautiful feline co-star sharing a moment.

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