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Lina Roessler, director of BEST SELLERS

Screen Media Films releases Best Sellers in select theaters and VOD on September 17th, 2021.

b>NYC MOVIE GURU:  When it comes to entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally as well as intellectually, which of those three elements was most challenging to tweak in the editing room?

Lina Roessler: When I'm in the editing room, I'm not thinking in those terms broken down like that. I think you're trying to tell the story truthfully in relation to the characters and to convey them in the best way possible to move the story along so that all those boxes should be ticked, I guess. But It's hard to break them down like that while you're working. If all those elements are there, then something clicks and you know that you're on the right track. You don't always have those at the same time, but hopefully you have at least one. [laughs]

NYC MOVIE GURU: Who do you think is ultimately responsible for bringing a character to life?  

LS: I don't think that it's even a question of responsibility. I think that when you're doing a film like this, the beauty of it is that you can't really have one without the other. You can't have an actor by themselves acting in a room on their own. You need the script, the director and all these things that come together. I've been an actor and a writer as well. I think that every actor brings a huge depth of knowledge, of choices, of feelings, a physicality of intellect and of a gut instinct of how they want to portray the character. If it doesn't work when they take the words of a screenwriter and swallow it, ingest it and make it their own, then they can work with the director to make their words their own. The director is sort of steering the ship and showing them a different route on these waters. You're sort of guiding it all together. But they should all be working together to come to the best version of that character with all the nuances and depth that's possible.

NYC MOVIE GURU:  In Best Sellers both Harris (Michael Caine) and Lucy (Aubrey Plaza) cry and get angry. Susan Forward, a therapist and co-author Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life, observed that society pressures men to avoid crying and pressures men to avoid getting angry. Do you agree with that observation? What's wrong with crying and getting angry, especially if it makes us more human?  

LS: People don't always cry because they're sad. In one sense, it's true. Men are taught not to cry and women are taught not to get angry, but I don't think that anger necessarily always replaces crying and vice versa. I know myself that people cry out of frustration, but maybe that could be a kind of anger. You can also cry tears of joy and fearful tears. Your anger can come out in different ways as well. When Harris and Lucy cry in Best Sellers, it's not about anger; it's about a real loss. When Harris does do it, he does it because he hasn't been able to do it and he's completely vulnerable, so it's as though he's taking off clothing and he's so exposed. He's telling a truth that he's never told anyone before and that makes him cry. He's so vulnerable, so he's actually letting his insides out. There's your metaphor. The tears are that information and emotions that was buried deep inside of him and it's now finally coming out of him. NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel that the advancement of modern technology is affecting the quality of human relationships? How do we discover ourselves through technology? How does that make any sense?  

LS: It does, it does, moreso because of how you started this interview with me. You said, "Can you hear me?" and I said, "Yes." and you said, "That's a great beginning to any friendship." This is a perfect example. We're talking through this strange black screen with headphones on. I can't see you. Presumably, you might've Googled me and know what I look like. We can't see each other or read each other's facial expressions. Maybe you're drawing a hangman or a tic-tac-toe on the side. So, relationships have changed: even a small thing like a sense of smell or a texture. There's a lack of full communication that happens because we're animals, we're humans and use all of our senses to perceive things, to gather information, absorb information and then to react accordingly. We give and take in this way. I think that that's changed stuff, but we've changed along with it. We've learned how to change even our language to communicate, say, through an emoji of a happy face. Depending on which group of people you're talking to, that emoji might have a completely different meaning for example. We've changed language into a screen. I think that that has repercussions, but I think that nothing will replace a face-to-face conversation that's within the physical world of reality because there's something unreal and not grounded and it's when a truthfulness can spin completely out of control too easily when you're not standing on the ground and feeling a reality as opposed to living in a virtual one.  

NYC MOVIE GURU: To what extent do you think that Harris is kindred spirits with Maude from Harold and Maude? Do you think that they'd get along?  

LS: It's so nice that you mention that. I haven't thought of it, but I think that you're right. I'm kind of embarrassed that I didn't think of that before. What a beautiful story. That's like a love story in a different sense, but between these two characters who have an age gap. Harris and Lucy's relationship in Best Sellers is not romantic in any way, but it's a love story. It's true that there are comparisons to be made between these two older contrarians. I'd like to watch Harold and Maude. That's for mentioning that.  

NYC MOVIE GURU: How challenging was it to balance the light and dark elements in Best Sellers?

LS: My biggest challenge in this film was to ride this tonal line between the light and the dark elements. Aubrey Plaza and Michael Caine have all of that talent. They have  all of those sides as we do as well of course. But they don't always get to show those sides. Usually, movies these days are just one or the other. Best Sellers has both elements, as you put it. So, I think it was a challenge to walk a fine line between it. The first half of the movie has a different sensibility and vibe, but when you get to the latter half and what happens to Harris, yes, it has to be treated in a certain way, but not too heavy-handed, hopefully; just as a reality with the actors--with Michael Caine being at a certain time of his life. This isn't anything that's new. This is real life. This is what happens. This is the reality and how we can deal with it. I don't think that we should dwell because life goes on and we go on. That's what we have to do. Hope shines forth.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Harris and Lucy are both grown-up, but what does it even mean to be a grown-up? Aren't we always growing up?

LS: Does a grown-up mean being an adult or is that different? We think of being grown-up in terms of actually physically growing. So when you're young and short, you're growing up into a more mature, both physically and biologically, version of yourself as a human being. It's a physical manifestation like a sort of sprout and you're turning up towards the sun. That's different from becoming an adult, which I also don't know what that means. [laughs]

NYC MOVIE GURU: To know that you don't know is something very powerful because it actually means that you do know something: you know that you don't know.

LS: It could be any Michael Caine film and any Aubrey Plaza film. Put them together and that would be like an appetizer. I can't tell if Best Sellers is the appetizer or the dessert.

NYC MOVIE GURU: I couldn't help but think about Michael Caine in...  

LS: Educating Rita! Am I right?


LS: I thought about that too, as I was saying that. 

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