“Best Sellers”: on the shoulders of its stars

Talent, when it pulls the ordinary upwards, can lead to … a Best Sellers. The debut film by Canadian director Lina Roessler (who was known as an actress in Snow and Ashes by Charles-Olivier Michaud) indeed sits on a predictable scenario by Anthony Grieco, which however comes alive by landing on the shoulders of the legendary Sir Michael Caine and an Aubrey Plaza (Ingrid Goes West, series Park and Recreation) brilliant in the way she never lets her guess what she’s going to get out of us.

At 88 years old, the first one emerges with great blows of ” bullshit »Serious and dignified roles that we are used to seeing him defend – especially in Christopher Nolan. He plays Harry Shaw, a widower, cantankerous, asocial novelist, scotch drinker, cigar smoker, author of a single novel… but what a novel! Except that was over 40 years ago.

Facing him, determined, petite in stature but immense in will, Aubrey Plaza brings Lucy Stanbridge to life. She is the daughter of the publisher of Shaw’s book, and is now the head of the publishing house which is going through serious financial difficulties.

Desperate, she shakes up the reclusive novelist: contractually, he owes a second novel to Stanbridge editions. Doesn’t he have a manuscript gathering dust somewhere? After all, no matter how good the book, Harry Shaw’s literary resurrection will be an event. As in fact, there is a manuscript. Then, publication. Then, a promotional tour in which Harry indulges his defiance.

Taking place against a backdrop of a Montreal that skilfully plays it New York City, Best Sellers is done then road movie on snowy roads and under gray skies (beautiful images by Claudine Sauvé) in the company of a mismatched tandem.

We know that they will eventually understand each other. We can guess almost everything from their stages and the end of the road. And we are never surprised by the realization that serves the story, nothing more. But we follow. We follow because the two main performers of this Canada – Great Britain co-production are irresistible.

Around them, Ellen Wong (seen in Scott Pillgrim vs the World) is exquisite in the skin of Lucy’s assistant; and Cary Elwes is unforgettable despite the brevity of his time in his incarnation of a critic who gives himself the air of Truman Capote.

Finally, there are these themes (too) familiar but which always hit the mark. The fear of failure. The fear of falling short – of past success for Harry, of his father for Lucy. And then, the collision between the world of yesterday, of Harry thus; and today’s one, where Lucy has to align the stars (from social media) to make Harry’s name shine. This gives rise to several funny scenes and situations – but which could have had more bite – even if the principal concerned finds that all this, in the end, is of the bullshit. He is both right and wrong.

Best Sellers

★★ 1/2

Dramatic comedy by Lina Roessler. With Sir Michael Caine, Aubrey Plaza, Ellen Wong, Cary Elwes, Scott Speedman. Canada, 2021, 100 minutes. In theaters (VOA) and on VOD (VOA and VF), from September 17th.

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