How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008)
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008)

Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min.

Release Date: October 3rd, 2008 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Robert B. Weide Actors: Simon Pegg, Megan Fox, Kirsten Dunst, Gillian Anderson, Chris O’Dowd, Jeff Bridges, Danny Huston, Ashley Madekwe

 


 

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hile many of the ideas have been seen and done before, the formulaic structuring and commonplace story arc can be more easily forgiven thanks to an intriguing perspective and an enthusiastic performance from Simon Pegg. Though audiences may never know where he’s going or how he’ll turn up, his determined attitude, fused with a daft sense of humor, makes for an altogether pleasing progression. Plus, the basis on British journalist Toby Young’s real life experiences (adapted from his memoir) lends a touch of authenticity, even if it’s been grandly embellished.

Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) is an arrogant, impudent, sarcastic, rude, and loathsome journalist, always itching to stir up trouble. When he’s offered a job to write for a reputable, upscale magazine, his carefree attitude and irreverent viewpoint on celebrity diplomacy begins to alienate and aggravate those around him. When he realizes his audacious methods are jeopardizing his chances at advancement, both in his career and with the coworker he’s romantically fallen for (Kirsten Dunst), he must decide whether or not to follow his heart or submit to the unforgiving conformity of the system.

“How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” has a similar storyline and vibe to Mike Nichol’s “Working Girl” – from a male perspective – but, unfortunately, much less charm. There’s also an obvious link to “The Devil Wears Prada” through its subject matter. The main problem is in the realism of Pegg’s character, which is largely artificial due to the lack of an assumed disadvantage in a male-dominated, corporate environment. He goes out of his way to be flamboyant and vexatious, which doesn’t garner underdog sympathy or emit individuality as much as it simply displays stupidity. Though Pegg is a likeable actor and carries the sarcastic humor in the film with his standard comic persona, his costars exude a wooden stodginess that dulls the garden-variety plot, even if it’s intended to emphasize his fish-out-of-water status.

Jeff Bridges is one of the more notable supporting players, but his role, even if modeled after a real person, is also questionable in its cinematic appeal. On the surface, he’s comparable to Robert Loggia’s MacMillan from “Big.” Both recognize a nostalgically rebellious youth in their unlikely employees, but only MacMillan handles the situation as a father figure, mentor, and professional. Bridges’ Clayton Harding acknowledges the impudence of the unrestrained Sidney, but chooses to abandon his sense of reason – well beyond what anyone could imagine even for the most altruistic softy.

The story starts at the end, goes back to the beginning to explain the characters, and then arrives at the end once again. This pattern, though immediately recognizable, seems to be just enough of an editing twist to work for countless storylines – which is why it continues to be utilized by dozens of modern films. The problem is that this method can feel disorderly when misused – especially when subplots and side characters are included just to fill generic plotline jumpstarts. Repetition is the ultimate enemy here, as “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” can’t quite launch itself into a presentation original enough to stand out. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but it’s too bad it couldn’t be more refreshing.

– The Massie Twins

  • 4/10