How To Lose Friends and Alienate People

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People

3 Stars

Simon Pegg has had tremendous success in his native UK, and his projects have done well state-side as well. But can he carry a U.S. film? Short answer: Yes, but not yet. In my opinion anyway.

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People is based on the book of the same name by Toby Young, a British Journalist who traveled to the states to pursue a job at Vanity Fair. Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) is the ficitional representation of Toby, and his small time UK magazine caught the attention of Sharpe’s editor Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) who asks Young to come write for their entertainment and lifestyles section. Young’s borish, obnoxious and cavalier behaviour, however, clashes with the upscale temperments of the magazine’s writers, editors and clientele. He soon learns, with the help of fellow writer Alison (Kirsten Dunst) and uber-publicist to the stars, Elanor Johnson (Gillian Anderson) that if you want to go anywhere, you have to play the game.

Rarely do I complain that a movie is too long. I have absolutely no problem sitting down and watching a 3.5 hour movie. But the problem with this movie is that it’s overly long. At nearly 2 hours, a good 25 minutes longer than it needed to be. It could be argued that some of the awkward scenes were put in to heighten the awkwardness of the character. But most of the time it comes off as just… awkward. A good portion of the time I was squirming in my seat out of discomfort.

But to the credit of the actors, they did a pretty good job with what they were given. They weren’t given much. Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hott Fuzz) proved he can move comfortably outside of the Edgar Wright collaboration that has treated him so well in years past. But his effectiveness in carrying a movie has yet to be proven. Luckily his next major American release is an ensemble (Star Trek, he plays Scotty).

I still have yet to see anything of value (outside her stunning looks) in Megan Fox (Transformers, that’s about it). She just so happens to be the IT girl of the moment, which gives dubious credence to her casting in just about anything. Kirstin Dunst is still somewhat of an oddity. Her script choices never seem to make use of her talent. Start picking edgier fair, Ms. Dunst. Stay away from the romantic comedies. You’re treading the waters Meg Ryan drowned in.

The film wasn’t completely dreadful, it did find the humour from a cliche fish out of water story. Something tells me the real life stories were much more interesting than the film has you believe, but the film was restricted by it’s attempts to appeal to a broader audience (and be a cliche rom-com). Had a different director (Robert B. Weide’s directorial filmography includes just a handful of biographical documentaries and few episodes of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) taken on the subject matter, say Alexander Payne, it probably would have been a better film. Edgier, tighter, funnier, better.

At best, it’s an enthusiastic “meh.” I don’t completely endorse nor completely condemn this film. It had it’s moments, but not enough to warrant anything more than 3 stars. It gets to three on Pegg alone. Wait for it to show up on HBO, bypass the theatrical and DVD releases.


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