Best Sellers review – Michael Caine does the business in otherwise silly slush

Aubrey Plaza’s independent publisher must convince Caine’s curmudgeonly novelist to trot out another book

In acting terms, Michael Caine brings his A-game to this – as does his co-star Aubrey Plaza. And when this script shows us a glimmer of something real and poignantly plausible between them, as it occasionally does, the film comes to life. Sadly though, it is mainly a rather silly high-concept dramedy intercut with maudlin moments, and the sentimental keynote inevitably dominates by the end.

Plaza plays Lucy Stanbridge, the editorial director of a highly unlikely independent publishing house in New York (a little like Meg Ryan’s independent bookstore in You’ve Got Mail) founded by her father and now under financial threat. Desperate to stay profitable, Lucy realises that she is contractually entitled to ask for a new book from the ageing, reclusive and sweary Brit novelist Harris Shaw, played by Caine, a grumpy widower who lives way upstate in a tumbledown house. She chivvies and bullies the adorable old curmudgeon into handing over his new manuscript and going on a book promotion tour – and, of course, his angry, old-fashioned attitude and splenetic outbursts get him a cult following (cue the now outrageously cliched going-viral-on-YouTube montage). Shaw is an old-school writer who doesn’t care about being relatable and building his brand online: he even assaults a sneery critic, played in cameo by Cary Elwes.

There are a couple of quite sweet moments here, with Lucy and Harris actually sharing a motel room on the road and developing a close father-daughter relationship, or rather grandfather-granddaughter relationship, which is complicated when we find out the truth about her dad, and his relationship with Shaw. Mainly the film is silly and unlikely, though, which is a shame because Caine can still bring it. Christopher Nolan gives him great small parts with real bite. Surely someone can offer him a substantial feature role that isn’t sentimental slush?

• Best Sellers is out now on digital platforms.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The best films of 2021 so far
Chloé Zhao hits the road, Carey Mulligan takes her revenge and Emma Stone refashions Cruella in the pick of this year’s films

Andrew Pulver

15, Jun, 2021 @8:52 AM

Article image
Black Bear review – Aubrey Plaza hits career high in ingenious meta-movie
Social tensions spiral towards disaster before a cryptic rug-pull in this strange comedy gem

Peter Bradshaw

22, Apr, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Ingrid Goes West review – social media satire is a horribly watchable carnival of narcissism
Aubrey Plaza plays an obsessive young woman who worms her way into the life of an Instagram star in Matt Spicer’s acrid comedy

Peter Bradshaw

15, Nov, 2017 @4:45 PM

Article image
Twist review – try-hard reboot spray paints over Dickens' tale
Rafferty Law’s young hero is a graffiti artist and Michael Caine’s Fagin an ex-art dealer in this under-par update of Oliver Twist

Peter Bradshaw

27, Jan, 2021 @1:00 PM

Article image
The Italian Job review – cockneys, car chases and a 50-year cliffhanger
Michael Caine is still enormously charismatic as a cheeky con in a release that confirms the enduring brio of this crime caper

Peter Bradshaw

14, Jun, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Video: Michael Caine: 'I always try to make me disappear'

Michael Caine tells Xan Brooks about his latest role as an elderly magician with Alzheimer's in Is Anybody There?, his great life outside the movies and what he would want to come back as

Xan Brooks

30, Apr, 2009 @10:21 AM

Article image
Home Again review – Reese Witherspoon sparkles in silly but watchable romcom
Familiar romantic comedy tropes abound in the debut film from Hallie Meyers-Shyer, daughter of the genre’s empress, Nancy Meyers

Peter Bradshaw

27, Sep, 2017 @4:19 PM

Article image
The To Do List – review
Aubrey Plaza's deadpan style cuts against the supposed naivety of her character in this teen comedy about sex from the girl's perspective, writes Peter Bradshaw

Peter Bradshaw

03, Oct, 2013 @9:27 PM

Article image
The Muppet Christmas Carol review – Michael Caine shows spirit in magical extravaganza
Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy are joined by Caine as a hilarious Scrooge in this irresistibly sweet musical adaptation of Dickens’ festive tale

Peter Bradshaw

29, Nov, 2017 @3:45 PM

Article image
Iceland Is Best review – quirky coming-of-age indie never takes off
Feisty teenager Sigga longs to move to California from her small hometown in Iceland. At least the scenery’s interesting

Phuong Le

06, Sep, 2021 @1:00 PM