Writers with Contempt: Our Review of ‘Best Sellers’

Writers with Contempt: Our Review of ‘Best Sellers’

Lucy Stanbridge’s (Aubrey Plaza) father Joseph’s (Luc Morrissette) publishing house released books that were both literary and reached cult status. The present day, however, isn’t so kind to the house that she inherited. She only edits YA books that aren’t critical and financial hits. There are two ways for her to get out of her financial hole – a conventional one and an unconventional one. Most movies are about people who struggle with both ways. She’s almost this close to going out conventionally and selling her house to her competitor, Jack Sinclair (Scott Speedman). But that’s until a deus ex machina lands on her desk. Lucy’s savior is a manuscript and possible best seller from an older writer, Harris Shaw (Michael Caine).

Credit is due to movies like this that unconventionally – there’s that word again – fast forewords through its plot arcs. There’s a version of Lina Roessler’s Best Sellers where it’s all about Harris trying to write a book. But instead it’s about the disastrous book tour where the snippy Lucy and the alcoholic Harris clash. Producers Arielle Elwes’ uncle and Cassian Elwes’ brother Cary plays a book critic who Harris assaults after the latter reads a Penthouse letter that no one should Google. Anyway, there’s also just as many scenes where Jack just happens to be at the tour’s latest stop, a perfect time for her to make quips about what’s in. Kale is out and scotch is in.

Books all about marketing to the hipsters now, a demographic Harris treats with contempt. I’ll award another credit to the fact that book publisher is often a rom com job and that this movie, instead, places that world within a a dramedy indie context. It’s not as glossy as rom coms. Lucy and Harris go from bickering quasi-professionals to drinking buddies, and this is where the movie slides into conventional routes. Here is also when it loses the raw qualities of dramedy indies. Lucy joining Harris’ drinking binges mean that there’s a puking scene coming along, and her hair still looks better in that scene than it does when she’s not puking.

Plaza and Caine are from different generations yet deliver their own versions of the hard work into trying to make Anthony Grieco’s script work. The same goes for Ellen Wong, who plays Lucy’s assistant. But they can only do so much to take attention away from its problems, small and large. The small problems include the fact that this takes place in America yet Lucy is allowed to drive what is presumably Harris’ British car. The larger problems include its expected third act sentimentalism, taking away a lot of the movie’s bite. There’s nothing that can convince me that Lucy cleaned Harris’ place up. I wish this movie gave me more believable moments.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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