How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
dir Robert B Weide
scr Peter Straughan
with Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Bridges, Danny Huston, Gillian Anderson, Megan Fox, Max Minghella, Miriam Margolyes, Bill Paterson, Diana Kent, Hannah Waddingham, Kelan Pannell
release UK/US 3.Oct.08
08/UK Film4 1h50
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
Here's a funny story: Pegg and Dunst

bridges huston anderson
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People Adapting Toby Young's scabrous memoir was never going to be easy, but the filmmakers struggle to find the right tone, opting for wacky slapstick and then corny rom-com when they should have gone for black satire.

Sidney Young (Pegg) is an alternative journalist in London who's invited by mega-powered editor Clayton Harding (Bridges) to work at the glossy Sharps magazine. But Sidney's anarchic humour doesn't translate to New York, and he quickly annoys his new boss (Huston) before winning some favour by kissing up to a PR guru (Anderson), a sexy actress (Fox) and a pretentious filmmaker (Minghella). Meanwhile, a snarky colleague (Dunst) eventually starts to see there's more to Sidney than a buffoon.

The premise is packed with sharp observations on the world of celebrity reporting and power grabbing invaded by this goofy Brit who's incapable of understanding that everyone takes all of this terribly seriously. But while Young's book astutely examined this culture clash, the film tries so hard to be both brightly madcap and sweetly romantic that it just ends up feeling abrasive. And it's not very funny either.

Pegg is superb at playing the mischievous, bright-eyed everyman, although we don't believe he'd last much longer than his first 10 minutes at Sharps. He plays Young as a guy so completely lacking in manners, charm and sense that it's impossible to like him. Even when he starts playing the game, we're not convinced that he has what it takes to succeed. And worse still, we don't care. More fun on screen are the people around him: Bridges is hilarious as the ex-hippie who believes his own myth, Fox is very funny as the desperate starlet, and Anderson steals the show as the fierce urban shark.

These kinds of side characters offer the film its more enjoyable sequences, tellingly playing on the arrogance of celebrities, hacks and publicists who are all hungry to make it even bigger. But Straughan's slackly written script doesn't build anything on this. And we can feel director Weide straining for hilarity; instead of letting a joke work, he punches it too hard. So in the end, we don't really fall for the forced sappiness either.

cert 15 themes, strong language, innuendo 31.Jul.08

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... How to Lose Friends & Alienate People James Lizard, London: 1/5 "The worst film since The Avengers. We waited a very long time for any sign of a laugh or plot interest or indeed anything which would keep our bums on the seats. Finally we gave up and went for a drink! I notice this was financed by the British Film Council - I doubt if any commercial studio would have given the limp script the time of day." (4.Oct.08)
© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall