It’s always a bit disappointing to see a personal dedication at the end of a movie that isn’t particularly great, as it indicates that there is a lot more personal truth to its easy-to-observe flaws than made-up fiction. . Bestsellers looks like the hundredth version of her story, a film about a young publisher with a lot to prove and the cantankerous author who stands between her and success, drawing on themes of parents and children, inherited and forged legacies, choices regretted and unfortunately not made. While director Lina Roessler’s feature debut is made with the kind of sensibility and tenderness that suggests a connection to material that is more than superficial, it still lacks the precision to extract greater substance from its assemblage of familiar tropes. .
Aubrey Plaza plays Lucy Stanbridge, the daughter of a famous publisher whose company fell into decline under his leadership. With the creditors calling and an offer to sell from Jack (Scott Speedman), a wealthy former lover, Lucy plans to part with the business and enjoy the comforts of her trust fund. But when his assistant Rachel (Ellen Wong) discovers a handwritten contract that says legendary author Harris Shaw (Michael Caine) owes the company a second novel after releasing his debut decades earlier.
Although she finds out that Shaw does indeed have a follow-up ready to go, he has become a cranky old drunkard and refuses to cooperate with her efforts to promote the book. As the two of them embark on a cross-country tour in her vintage Jaguar, she wonders with growing desperation if it is worth putting up with her antics in order to protect her father’s legacy. Meanwhile, Shaw slowly begins to realize that Lucy’s intentions are good, even as they contradict each of her own impulses. Soon the two strike a tough deal on this latest promotional road trip, leaning over his abrasive and crass performance to label him iconoclastic while also boosting sales for the book.
Roessler, a Canadian actor-turned-director, works from a screenplay by Anthony Grieco to draw parallel lines between the life of a young woman feverishly trying to protect her father’s legacy and that of an old man indifferent to the his unexpectedly. Lucy is privileged, but she’s also well-educated, thoughtful, and hardworking, and if her initial efforts to bring Harris back into public view were driven by financial necessity, she soon finds that leading her octogenarian counterpart across the country is much different. than a shepherd. its work in the hands of readers. Conversely, Harris’ calcified shell was hardened by years of loneliness and loneliness after his wife’s death, and while the book’s publication provides him with a much-needed infusion of money, it won’t fill the gaps. holes that remain in his life.
A film like the extraordinary by Marielle Heller Can you ever forgive me? offers a case study on how to tell a story like this – not quite the same, of course, and inspired by real events; but by comparison, the Chicken Soup For the Soul Entertainment production card in front Bestsellers tells you more than anything about what to expect, before it even starts. Lucy is brave and Harris is acerbic, but the only thing they seem to end up sharing is screen time, which isn’t enough for her to start cooperating with her on the book tour, let alone. develop an almost paternalistic devotion to her as their mutual success finally begins to grow. We eventually learn that his reluctance to participate in any promotional activities is driven by something other than, well, being a drunken old jerk, but this revelation tries to connect the dots between two characters who have already created an intriguing connection without him. supplement, artificial drama.
While Plaza and Caine are both compelling as characters, Roessler doesn’t seem to particularly draw them into anything in their performances that is unique. If Wong hasn’t found enough roles that use the star-eyed charm she displayed in Scott Pilgrim vs the world, she successfully gives Lucy de Plaza a quid pro quo to deal with the ramifications and ongoing updates of her and Harris’ tour. Meanwhile, Scott Speedman never seems to decide whether his character genuinely wishes to help Lucy protect her father’s business or negotiate a deal out of self-interest. And Cary Elwes makes an appearance as a critic at the Truman Capote whose approval, according to the film, is critical to the book’s success, but which wears off after just one scene.
Even without knowing the inner workings of the publishing industry, Roessler seems to ignore what appear to be obvious truths about promoting an iconic author’s book, or the iconic authors themselves; there are too many brilliant, fickle, egotistical, self-destructive writers in the annals of literary history (even recently) to “ram chapters on camera” to be the inventive marketing tactic the film suggests. ‘It is. In which case, Bestsellers is a forgettable but pleasantly entertaining read at best, a book you buy on a whim before a long flight but don’t mind if you leave it on board because you’ve figured out how it’s going to end. Roessler may indeed have a future as a filmmaker, and there is certainly a lot of room – and need – in Hollywood for another female director in the making; but in the future, she would benefit from maximizing the personal connections she might have with her material in the story itself rather than a simple dedication at the end.