Best Sellers

  • 02 Oct - 08 Oct, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

As the story begins, Lucy’s company, which she has inherited from her father, is in dire financial straits as a result as having published too many terrible YA novels. Her only hope lies in the form of the legendary Shaw, whose last book, written nearly a half-century ago, became a literary sensation. Lucy discovers that Shaw’s contract dictates that he owes the company another book, and accompanied by her loyal assistant (Ellen Wong), she visits the reclusive novelist to order him to make good.

Needless to say, their meeting doesn’t go well. Shaw – the sort of recluse who answers the phone by shouting “He’s dead, bugger off!” – pulls a shotgun on them. But, as we already know from having watched him burn a foreclosure notice, he’s also tapped for funds, so he agrees to let them publish his long-gestating manuscript, “The Future is X-Rated.”

Unfortunately for him, his contract also states that he must submit his book for editing, and he doesn’t take kindly to the idea.

The solution is obvious, at least for anyone taking basic screenwriting courses: road trip! Lucy agrees to publish the manuscript unchanged if Shaw will go with her on a book tour on which he’ll read excerpts from his new magnum opus. Cue the ensuing predictable conflict, as the rascally novelist endlessly exasperates his handler by perpetuating such stunts as reading from Penthouse letters, physically assaulting a pompous New York Times book critic and repeatedly chanting his favourite word, “bullshite,” which of course goes viral and becomes a meme.

The film’s mild attempts at satirising internet culture and book publishing occasionally land, as when Lucy discovers that Shaw’s new young fans are more interested in T-shirts emblazoned with his face and trademark catchphrase than actually reading his book. But the humour becomes overtaken by the contrived plot mechanics, which eventually include several melodramatic revelations and an ending practically scientifically engineered to get tears flowing.

That Best Sellers works to the extent that it does is a testament to Caine’s ultra-professionalism – he truly is a treasure who can make any film worth watching – and Plaza’s canny underplaying. They work together so well, you wish they were in a better movie.