The Movie Buffer

Monday, October 06, 2008

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People




Considering my boon-dock town will never be chosen for a limited release location (I couldn’t see Choke, Religulous, or Rachel Getting Married) and anxious for a good laugh, I was in hoping that “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People” was going to be the metaphorical marshmallow in the cow patty of this week’s releases.  

In the world of parasitic tabloid magazines, paparazzi and celebrities all too willing to smile for the cameras, we find Sydney Young (Pegg) yearning to be on the inside of that Hollywood veil of success. Except, he’s not in the industry, he writes for a homemade magazine lampooning that lifestyle. When his over-the-top stunts to find a scoop catch the eye of editor of Sharp’s Magazine, Clayton Harding (Bridges), Young takes a step towards his dream and moves to New York City to work for Sharp’s. 

The film is based on the memoirs of a Brit (Toby Young) who, for the lack of a more accurately crass expression, star-fucks his way to semi-notoriety as a reporter for Vanity Fair. Of course, in both stories, the names are changed so no one would be the wiser.

The book was an excellent example of putting the media in its place because if any of the media outlets complained that they were being painted like vacuous sycophants, Young could turn around and call them bitter.  If they said that it was a good read, he could only say, “I told you so”.  So, the book enjoyed good reviews and fair amount of success.

The main problem about telling the story of the shallowness of the entertainment industry is that you run the risk of becoming that which you despise.  The characters are all one trick ponies, who hobble around barely cognizant that no one is paying attention to them.  Toby could probably cut into the people and the magazine he worked for deeply, but doesn’t because otherwise he wouldn’t get published.  So, he tones it down further and further until all that’s left is a string of piss jokes and spit takes. 

It’s all so meta - an artistic void trying very hard to pose as satire about an artistic void. Not only do we not get to know any of the characters, you have a menagerie of the damned for the starring cast: Megan Fox as a vapid star. Really!? Kirsten Dunst as an anal-retentive, whiny misanthrope. No way! Worst of all, you have Simon Pegg, who could pretty much save any film, barely doing anything.  His character gets dumped onto the screen as a half-baked asshole, who rants about never selling out, so his inevitable sellout is a real shocker, I swear.  There is just nothing going for Pegg’s character so why should we care what he does or doesn’t do.

The only characters that are any good are Jeff Bridges and Gillian Anderson. Bridges plays the editor of Sharp’s and former media hatchet man, Clayton Harding. Harding is Young’s hero because he, Harding, had written his own media bashing magazine in his youth. Anderson plays the cut-throat publicist, Eleanor Johnson, who manipulates Young into writing several puff pieces with Megan Fox as the prize. If only these two weren’t secondary characters.  As a footnote, there are several good actors in bit parts, such as Chris O’Dowd and Katherine Parkinson of the IT crowd, and Thandie Newton as herself.

I was sorely mistaken about this film and I’m ashamed that I was so easily duped into dumping cash into it. Pegg should have known better than to sign on to this sinking ship, but I guess the opportunity to roll around with Megan Fox only comes once a lifetime. As an avid Pegg fan, it pains me not to recommend this film. Rent it for completeness, but otherwise avoid it.