“How To Lose Friends and Alienate People” …and waste the cost of a movie rental

March 5, 2009


Simon Pegg and Kirsten Dunst star in How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, released on DVD on Feb. 17. Photo courtesy of MGM.

Based on Toby Young’s 2001 memoir of the same title, How To Lose Friends and Alienate People is a cliché from start to finish and a knock-off of five other movies, all of which are better than this one.

As an avid fan of romantic comedies and English actor Simon Pegg, I had high hopes for this film. I really did. It looked clever and cute. And who doesn’t love peering into the glamorous lives of A-list celebrities like a voyeur?

Pegg’s character, Sydney Young, is a struggling journalist in London who gets the opportunity to work for a prestigious celebrity magazine in New York. He tries to be different and write what he wants but ends up selling his soul and bowing to the powers of those who can help his career progress.

Pegg’s characters are always lovable. They’re always a bit clumsy and awkwardly charming. And good for him for breaking into American film, even if it wasn’t a great one. But he brings that weird, nerdy, English charm to all his projects, making him a pleasure to watch on-screen, even in this piece of cinematic garbage.

There was nothing fresh or new about this film. The characters are generic beyond compare and the story has been done a thousand times. An underdog gets the chance to see how the celebrities live, only to find that it’s not as fabulous as they always thought. (How original!)

This film is generally a lesser version of The Devil Wears Prada (2006) but with a male lead. Fashion models are replaced by movie stars and Meryl Streep is replaced by Jeff Bridges as the scary, intimidating editor.

Kudos, though, to Gillian Anderson (of X-Files fame) for her performance of high profile publicist Eleanor Johnson. She was fabulous and scary. Megan Fox (Transformers, Hope & Faith) plays the young, pouted-lipped celebrity Sophie Maes and the object of Young’s lust. 

Kirsten Dunst portrays Young’s love interest and fellow journalist, Alison Olsen. She’s a serious writer who is trapped writing the fluff stories she always despised. She hates her life and, at one point, is seen drowning her sorrows away by drinking wine right from the bottle. (My kinda girl.) 

At one point, a scene is directly copied from There’s Something About Mary (1998). Young tries to befriend the dog of a love interest. Instead of seriously wounding the dog (like Ben Stiller’s character did), Young accidentally kills the dog. (Call me old-fashioned but a dead dog doesn’t make for good comedy.)

The film doesn’t paint journalists in a positive light. But it’s honest in its portrayal of competition in an office environment (except for a particularly awkward scene involving an office prank and a stripper). It also explores the friendships and rivalries that develop between coworkers.

I chuckled seven times during this movie, which runs almost two hours long. (Yes, I counted.) And I don’t mean to demean myself or my sense of humour, but generally, I’m easily amused. So, that says something.

Despite this waste of money and time, the film has a wonderful soundtrack, featuring Joey Ramone, The Kinks, Scissor Sisters and The Killers. Instead of renting this movie, just go buy the soundtrack. And then go rent The Devil Wears Prada and pretend Anne Hathaway is a dude.

(Published in the March 5 2009 edition of The Surveyor.)

One Response to ““How To Lose Friends and Alienate People” …and waste the cost of a movie rental”

  1. Megan Fox said

    I’m looking forward to Jennifer’s Body. Megan had no real meaty scenes in How to lose friends and alienate people. And in Transformers she was pretty much mute.

    Shes also up for the role of Leila in Jonah Hex with Josh Brolin.
    She would be a perfect Wonder Woman thought! 🙂

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