Eye For Film >> Movies >> How To Lose Friends And Alienate People (2008) Film Review
How To Lose Friends And Alienate People
Reviewed by: Adam Micklethwaite
Based on Toby Young’s best-selling novel, this is the story of an anarchic British journalist given the opportunity he craves to make it to the big-time when he is offered a job at world famous fashion magazine Sharps. Predictably, however, the realisation of this dream is just the first part of a chaotic roller-coaster ride through the fickle, shallow world of New York celebrity cool as we follow our ‘hero’ Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) through a series of humorous disasters and cringeworthy catastrophies.
I’m sure many people will go into this film fresh from reading the book, but personally I had relatively little notion of what to expect and must confess to my vague preconception that this might prove to be a male-orientated version of The Devil Wears Prada (fish-out-of water journalist attempts to make it in the vacuous world of celebrity) with a bit of slapstick from Simon Pegg thrown in for good measure. Prior to the festival screening, Toby Young’s assertion that: “The drunker you are, the more you’re going to enjoy it” did little to allay my fears that I should have left my brain in the cloakroom. On top of this, I spent the first half hour of the film wondering if I was ever going to warm to Pegg’s somewhat obnoxious character. But fear not, dear reader, for all is not lost.
This is the first film Simon Pegg has starred in but not written and his performance doesn’t disappoint. I’m not going to claim that this role will convert non-believers and Sidney is not the most instantly likeable character that Pegg has played, but nevertheless he is genuinely funny in this film – if occasionally verging on the point of being too cringeworthy. He also does an excellent job of gradually turning Sidney into a more sympathetic character as the film progresses, slowly winning round the sceptical audience.
Our story begins one year into events with our ‘hero’ apparently on the verge of success. He’s made it to a lucrative awards ceremony where he is accompanying a beautiful Hollywood starlet (Megan Fox) who has promised to sleep with him if she wins the coveted Best Actress award. Surely this is not the disastrous social scenario suggested by the title…
Of course the audience is not fooled by such an obvious set-up, but nevertheless this is a clever device to grab the viewer’s attention before we are transported back to the chronological start of events one year previously, and what seems like a parallel universe, where Sidney is an infamous, celebrity hack, barred from all celebrity parties, except when heavily disguised. So how does he go from ‘losing friends and alienating people’ to ‘winning friends and influencing people’? Well, that would be telling, but the more important question is will he choose principles and romance (in the form of beautiful colleague Kirsten Dunst) over the trappings of celebrity, fame and fortune and the not inconsiderable charms of Fox’s A-list starlet?
I’m not going to insult your intelligence by suggesting that you can’t get guess which way this is going to go, but what the makes the film successful is that it doesn’t matter that we know what’s going to happen. The film shows us nothing we haven’t seen before, but it does so in an extremely enjoyable fashion, turning a razor-sharp satirical eye on celebrity chic and the fawning journalism which surrounds it.
Fans of the book may be disappointed by Director Robert B Weide’s decision to make it more overtly into a rom-com (and also by his decision to change the heroine from a British to an American woman in order to broaden the film’s appeal to audiences across the Pond and avoid accusations of xenophobia) but conversely this feels like one of the movie’s greatest strengths. This is a film which knows exactly what it is and what it wants to achieve and, as a result, never pretends to be something it’s not.
This may be a rom-com but the emphasis is very much placed upon the ‘com’ which several truly memorable scenes and some fantastically biting satire on the fickle, shallow, superficial world of celebrity. Witness Danny Huston’s slimy performance as the scheming Lawrence Maddox, Max Minghella as painfully cool director Vincent Lepak, and best of all, Megan Fox’s manufactured Hollywood starlet Sophie Maes, whose ironic starring role in a biopic of Mother Theresa provides some of the film’s best laughs.
If you’re looking for depth, subtlety or profound originality then look elsewhere. But if you want to be amused and entertained by witty satire and hilarious comedy sequences then I thoroughly recommend this.Reviewed on: 30 Sep 2008