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Michael Caine stars in Lina Roessler's feature debut Best Sellers.Laurence Grandbois Bernard/Atomic Autumn Productions Inc. and Best Sellers Film Ltd. / Mongrel

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  • Best Sellers
  • Directed by Lina Roessler
  • Written by Anthony Grieco
  • Starring Aubrey Plaza, Michael Caine, Cary Elwes
  • Classification 14G
  • Available in theatres Sept. 17

An old man with a terrible cough sits at his desk, in the company of his cat, his cigar and his whisky, surrounded by balled-up sheets of paper ripped from the typewriter. The phone rings repeatedly; he finally sends it sailing out the window.

Cut to the big city. A young woman sits under an imposing portrait of her father, who has entrusted his publishing house to her. Agonizing over how to keep the company afloat, Lucy Stanbridge (Aubrey Plaza) makes a discovery: the once great author Harris Shaw (Michael Caine) owes the company a book.

Aubrey Plaza stars as Lucy Stanbridge, who inherits her father's publishing house.Laurence Grandbois Bernard/Atomic Autumn Productions Inc. and Best Sellers Film Ltd. / Mongrel

Yes, he’s the guy at the typewriter who won’t answer the phone – or, when she visits, agree to her proposal. But just as Lucy is about to sign over the company to the slick dude (Scott Speedman) who wants it for a song, Shaw shows up and slaps a manuscript on her desk.

The contract says she can either edit it or send him on a book tour. “I’ll be damned if I let the incompetent hand of nepotism molest my words, Silver Spoon.” Book tour it is – à deux.

Aubrey Plaza and Michael Caine pack wonderful and charming performances in Best Sellers.Laurence Grandbois Bernard/Atomic Autumn Productions Inc. and Best Sellers Film Ltd. / Mongrel

Can Harris save the company? Can Lucy save his soul? Clichés abound and you think you know where this is going. But in her feature debut, Canadian director Lina Roessler manages some genuine surprises. Caine is wonderful, Plaza is charming. The film has its moments, but one for the books this ain’t.

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a critic’s pick designation across all coverage. (Television reviews, typically based on an incomplete season, are exempt.)