How to Lose Friends and Alienate People ***
Directed by Robert B. Weide
Written by Peter Straughan, based on the book by Toby Young
Simon Pegg as Sidney Young
Kirsten Dunst as Alison Olson
Jeff Bridges as Clayton Harding
Megan Fox as Sophie Maes
Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Johnson
Danny Huston as Lawrence Maddox
Rated R for language, some graphic nudity and brief drug material.
I discovered Simon Pegg in the same way that most people in the United States did-in the great comedy "Shaun of the Dead." And since then I've seen every film released here that he's been in-"Hot Fuzz," "The Good Night," even the pretty bad "Run, Fatboy, Run." And as weak as some of the scripts have been-especially the latter film I mentioned-Pegg has always had the ability to make me laugh. Sometimes a simple facial reaction is all it takes-take a look at his looks of disgust or shock. That and he has quite a likeable personality, even when he is playing some of the most vile male characters you can imagine.
Take his character Sidney Young in "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People." His main goal in the first half of the film is to have sex with an actress. He wants to badmouth practically every actor for some selfish laughs. He goes up to women with a different name pretending to be a much bigger name than he really is. And lastly, he goes to his first day working at a big magazine company with a red t-shirt that says "Young, Dumb, and Full of Come." But he has such a likeable personality that I was able to look past these many negative qualities and manage to enjoy this character, before his formulaic transformation in the second half of the film.
When we first meet Sidney he is trying to get access to a party for his underground magazine. When that ends with him being in a headlock by Clint Eastwood, he is offered a job by Clayton Harding, one of the biggest names in the magazine business. He gets a job at Sharps magazine, and it instantly goes to his head. He moves to New York and gets a small apartment in the bad part of town. And he instantly makes a bad impression on Alison Olson in a bar, and of course she turns out to be his co-worker. As Sidney tries to go higher on the corporate ladder-dealing with pretentious celebrities and his seedy boss Lawrence-he discovers how hard it is to be famous and to be yourself.
"How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" is based on the memoirs by Toby Young, who worked for Vanity Fair magazine, and was apparantly louder and more crass than Sidney. In some ways Simon Pegg is the perfect choice to play him, because he is able to be loud, crass, and annoying, but also very loveable. The first hour of the film focuses primarily on Sidney's adjustment to the company-coming up with good ideas and getting them taken away from him, getting back at Lawrence by hiring a transexual on "take your daughter to work" day-the usual stuff. Its after the hour mark where the film starts to go into familar terrorities, and that is the love story between Sidney and Alison. Oddly enough Pegg and Kirsten Dunst have decent chemistry, and Dunst herself gives her best performance in a long while. And I've always said that if the material is nothing new, the execution becomes that much more important. And "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" is a fine diversion-and pleasant and funny satirical romantic comedy. It's nothing amazing, but its fine entertainment.