How To Lose Friends & Alienate People
Review by Jack Foley
THE title speaks volumes for what to expect from this bittersweet rom-com that’s inspired by the memoirs of Toby Young, a British writer who landed a dream job at Vanity Fair in the late ’90s only to let his ego get the better of him and, ultimately, his career.
Peter Straughan’s makeover attempts to make the Young character seem more appealing, and even places the ever-likeable Simon Pegg in the lead role, but their attempts only go so far in papering over the film’s fundamental flaw: the guy is simply too much of an a**hole to root for.
Pegg plays Sidney Young, a London hack prone to shooting off his mouth, who lands a dream job at New York’s Sharps magazine and determines to make America his playground.
But far from being the big break he anticipated Young finds himself on the bottom rung of the ladder and forced to rely on fellow climber Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst) for assistance. Yet his capacity for self-destruction constantly undermines his efforts to seduce Hollywood’s latest starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox) and find the good graces of Sharps‘ editor Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges).
To be fair, Robert B Weide’s film won’t alienate people completely and always remains watchable in a car crash viewing kind of way.
But try as hard as he might, Pegg’s Young struggles to win over audiences because of his capacity to put his foot in his mouth so often. And the rom-com element involving the Dunst character, that’s been added to soften Pegg’s character, is simply too bland to really redeem it, especially since the resolution is never really in doubt.
What’s left is a curious mix of situation comedies such as The Office and Extras given extra Hollywood zip by paying homage to classics such as The Apartment and La Dolce Vita.
There are positives… Jeff Bridges is typically great as the grumpy editor struggling to cope with his position in life, Megan Fox is smouldering as the Monroe-esque Sophie Maes, Danny Huston brings his typical touch of class as a philandering section head and Gillian Anderson enjoys playing a manipulative PR bitch. And there are even a couple of laugh-out loud gags to savour.
Just don’t go in expecting a completely satisfying experience because the film – much like its central character – continues to put its foot in things whenever it looks like winning you over.
Running time: 109mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 16, 2009