HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS & ALIENATE PEOPLE
Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) is a disillusioned young man who both adores and despises the world of celebrity, fame, glitz and the glamour. His magazine, Post Modern Review, makes fun of the media obsessed stars, so it's a surprise that Young is offered a job at the diametrically opposed, conservative, New York based Sharps magazine. It seems Sharps' editor Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) is amused by Young's disruption of a post-BAFTA party with a pig posing as Babe. Thus begins Sidney's descent into success - his gradual move from derided outsider to confidante of starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox) - and a love affair with colleague Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst) that will either make him or break him.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This male version of The Devil Wears Prada comes off second best in the comparison, but is nevertheless an entertaining jest about a young Brit who is not only a fish out of water but totally out of the fishtank. Sidney Simon, an endearing mix of loser and opportunist played with gusto by the everyman Brit actor Simon Pegg, first fights then embraces the cult of celebrity but his embrace is rather fumbling.
Jeff Bridges plays the Meryl Streep role as the high style, high priest editor of Sharps magazine, New York's social pages to die for and he does a fine job with the character, as far as the script allows it. This insincere and sharp edged milieu is the world into which Sidney is invited, unaware of the many pitfalls and the many prices he must pay to just stay within the circle - never mind aspire to its inner, inner circles.
Kirsten Dunst is on familiar ground as the hometown girl with the heart of gold that will be broken by the cad with whom she is having an affair, and Megan Fox is the rising star Sophie Maes (Mess, more like it) who is alluring but ultimately cheap and shallow. Her publicist, who objects to that title (for deep, psychological reasons we can guess) is the manipulative Eleanor Johnson, played with icy verve by Gillian Anderson with a killer demeanour.
But the film's tone is never properly wrangled and maintained, so it loses both its edgy satirical whiplash and its quietly beating heart.
Review by Louise Keller:
Simon Pegg's inept, crude journalist Sidney Young wants to make an impression but all he seems to make are mistakes, when he tries to climb the rungs of the professional ladder and fit into the scene of his new workplace of an elite New York magazine. Based on Toby Young's book, the film is ultra English in its sensibility and the humour creeps up gradually as we become intricately involved in the complex package of Sidney's life. There's more to this brash party-crasher than meets the eye when we first spy him surreptitiously sneaking a pig on a leash into a black-tie celebrity event. Like its humour, the film's charms also sneak up on us, and as we take this unlikely, hiccup-filled journey with Sidney, he surprisingly goes from obnoxious to endearing and we are cheering him on from the sidelines.
We immediately sense there's a degree of self-loathing about Sidney, who takes on an alias when sweet-talking a girl. 'It's not a vacation, it's a vocation,' Danny Huston's section editor Lawrence Maddox tells Sidney when the gauche newcomer makes one faux pas after another among the beautiful people of the celebrity set. Pegg is perfectly cast as the seemingly shallow Sidney who aspires to be accepted into the elusive inner-circle he calls his Shangri-La, while Kirsten Dunst is lovely as girl with the elusive White Russian-drinking poet boyfriend. Megan Fox makes a splash as the ambitious starlet Sophie Maes; we witness the perfectly paparazzi stage-managed moment as she walks fully clothed across a flower-strewn swimming pool at a ritzy party. Gillian Anderson is cuttingly good as the manipulative, controlling publicist and Jeff Bridges entertaining as the all-knowing editor.
It's a satirical look at celebrity - everyone wants something from everybody. As Kristen Dunst's Alison says 'Women only date men who are successful ... and tall.' Director Robert B. Weide keeps the tone real as we struggle down hallways, try to rescue a starlet's pet Chihuahua, barter for sexual favours and dress to kill at a fancy dress party that honours dead movie stars. The laughs are cumulative and far less blatant than a typical Hollywood comedy, but then so are the rewards.
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HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS & ALIENATE PEOPLE (M)
CAST: Simon Pegg, Megan Fox, Kirsten Dunst, Danny Huston, Jeff Bridges, Gillian Anderson, Margo Stilley,
PRODUCER: Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley
DIRECTOR: Robert B. Weide
SCRIPT: Peter Straughan, Toby Young
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oliver Stapleton
EDITOR: David Freeman
MUSIC: David Arnold
PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Beard
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 23, 2008