How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

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Overview

Frequent Curb Your Enthusiasm director Robert B. Weide makes his feature directorial debut with this screen adaptation of British writer Toby Young's comedic novel of the same name. When self-promoting scribe Sidney Young Simon Pegg accepts a position as a contributing editor for iconic fashion magazine "Sharps," his subsequent attempts to ingratiate himself with both his egotistical boss, Clayton Harding, and the superficial celebrities who populate the pages of the magazine ...
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Overview

Frequent Curb Your Enthusiasm director Robert B. Weide makes his feature directorial debut with this screen adaptation of British writer Toby Young's comedic novel of the same name. When self-promoting scribe Sidney Young Simon Pegg accepts a position as a contributing editor for iconic fashion magazine "Sharps," his subsequent attempts to ingratiate himself with both his egotistical boss, Clayton Harding, and the superficial celebrities who populate the pages of the magazine prove disastrously hilarious.
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Editorial Reviews

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Based on the memoir by Toby Young, a British journalist who's made a career out of what he calls "negative charisma," How to Lose Friends and Alienate People lampoons the self-importance of Hollywood, the publishing world, and well, Toby Young known in this roman à clef as Sidney Young. It pulls off this satirizing brand of comedy in some wildly amusing ways -- it's when the film abandons the satire that things start to drag. Simon Pegg plays the beguilingly obnoxious writer, who's running a soon to be defunct humor magazine out of his London apartment when he gets a call from Clayton Harding, the editor in chief of a Vanity Fair pseudonym called Sharps Magazine, offering him a job in New York. Convinced that he was hired for his caustic wit and biting disdain for celebrity culture, Sidney subsequently embarks on a series of tactless misadventures that make awesomely merciless fun of every vapid aspect of the stargazing glitter-mag industry. The bits themselves are alright on paper, but they're ten times funnier onscreen because Pegg sells them with such blind exuberance he could take home the Oscar for manic silly dancing. Of course, the most brilliantly mocked character is usually Sidney himself, with his transparent hunger to get behind the velvet ropes, but Kirsten Dunst plays a good straight man to his antics, and there's a great turn by Danny Huston, who once again employs his training in Creepy Grin Acting as a slimy section editor. There's also a fantastic appearance by Gillian Anderson, who positively kills it as an impeccably shrewd, string-pulling publicist with the keys to just about any star worth writing about, and the sway to keep a magazine like Sharps from ever using its teeth. Jeff Bridges plays the powerful but bored Clayton Harding, who would be in the middle of a midlife crisis if his disillusionment weren't tempered with scotch-soaked apathy. Hit with pangs of nostalgia for his irreverent youth and compunction for his insipid empire, it turns out that he hired Sidney to come in as a bottom-rung contributing editor in the celeb-gossip section more or less on a whim. Bridges utilizes an odd combination of hamming it up and phoning it in, which somehow ends up stealing the whole movie. Even in a perfectly cut suit and with his silver mane slicked back, he still calls to mind "The Dude" from the Big Lebowski every time he speaks, partly because he seems to be playing every scene drunk, even when his character isn't drinking but is, we can assume, spaced out on ennui. And maybe an offscreen highball. It's possible that this effect was intended by the director, as the film includes what appear to be a smattering of Dude references, including a character who drinks White Russians a theme that did not, for the record, appear in the book, but maybe Bridges' effortless charm effortless to the point of detachment, in this case is just so damn bewitching that you can't help making the rest of the movie about him in your own head. The fact that Bridges steals the show by barely trying is telling, but it could be a lot worse. The movie is consistently funny; the problem is that it could have been a lot funnier, and probably more interesting. There's a scene about halfway in where we learn some unexpected stuff about Sidney's past -- a fairly unique twist that provides a lot of potential for the direction of the story. But instead of running with it, the script completely drops the revelation in favor of a prototypical romcom plot, which isn't executed too badly but also doesn't quite seem right. This is basically the weakness of the whole movie: there was clearly more room to explore Sidney's jerky behavior and general piggishness to hilarious ends, and there was apparently even the potential to pursue a little aw-shucks-maybe-he's-not-so-bad character development, but the shoehorned romance, while fairly sweet and rarely saccharine, just doesn't fit. They toned down the main character's extremely entertaining nastiness so that it could make any kind of sense for him to get the girl, but you can't help feeling like they cheated you out of more laughs -- especially when most people would go see a conventional romantic comedy if they wanted to see a guy get the girl, lose the girl, and get the girl back. Maybe it's a little naïve to complain about Hollywood watering down and standardizing a story this way, but considering the subject matter, it's also a little ironic.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/16/2009
  • EAN: 5051368205434
  • Original Release: 2008
  • Rating:

  • Source: Ais
  • Region Code: 2
  • Time: 1:50:00
  • Format: Blu-ray

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Simon Pegg Sidney Young
Kirsten Dunst Alison Olsen
Jeff Bridges Clayton Harding
Danny Huston Lawrence Maddox
Gillian Anderson Eleanor Johnson
Megan Fox Sophie Maes
Max Minghella Vincent Lepak
Miriam Margolyes Mrs. Kowalski
Bill Paterson Richard Young
Diana Kent Rachel Petkoff
Technical Credits
Robert B. Weide Director
David Arnold Score Composer
Justine Baddeley Casting
John Beard Production Designer
Laurie Borg Co-producer
Kimberly Davis-Wagner Casting
Karen Elliott Musical Direction/Supervision
Simon Fawcett Executive Producer
David Freeman Editor
Annie Hardinge Costumes/Costume Designer
Jina Jay Casting
Elizabeth Karlsen Producer
Peter "Swords" King Makeup
Tessa Ross Executive Producer
Gary Smith Executive Producer
Courtney Solomon Executive Producer
Oliver Stapleton Cinematographer
Peter Straughan Screenwriter
Paul White Executive Producer
Stephen Woolley Producer
Toby Young Co-producer
Allan Zeman Executive Producer
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

    Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) is an obnoxious womanizing loser. Sidney runs a low brow radical magazine in Britain, where he tries to break into parties after awards shows to mingle with stars and try to catch stars doing things worthy of his gossipy rag. Just when he thinks he's going to have to close down the magazine, Sidney gets a call from Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges), the editor in chief for big-time New York magazine Sharps. Working at Sharps, Sidney gets to hobnob with the rich and famous, but proceeds to alienate everyone around him. While trying to get into the pants of young attractive starlet (Megan Fox) he makes an unlikely friend in fellow Sharps writer Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst).

    How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is based on the book of the same name, which is a memoir by faux journalist Toby Young. Hearing some of the stories of Toby Young, it's quite obvious that Sidney in the movie was made a tad bit more likable than his real life counterpart. Toby Young, who tried for five years to make it in the US as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair but failed, once asked Nathan Lane if he was gay during an interview about The Birdcage, and got himself banned from the set of the movie based on his own book because he was annoying actors and interrupting the director while he was shooting. So how do you make a movie about a guy so obnoxious that he really alienates people?

    Well, the casting of an uber-likable British actor like Simon Pegg really helps the process of making Sidney Young a character that you still kind of root for. Pegg does a great job with the role he's given too, making Young a sleazy character, but also giving him a slight bit of a genuine spirit. After him all of the actors and actresses fall in line in this flick, playing their roles very well, with the exception of Megan Fox. I wondered after seeing her in Transformers if she was paired up with a different director could she possibly be a better actress? Here, unfortunately, we find out that the answer to that question is no, she's nothing more than a pretty face, nice body, and a vacant stare. I was really hoping there would be more to her though.

    How to Lose Friends starts off strong, and at times is hilarious, but it loses itself and ends up all over the place. Seeing Sidney make a fool of himself can be fun, but at times it can also be painful to watch. The writing is at it's best when Sidney is being genuine, and even shows moments that appear to have a hint of ethical behavior involved. Naturally, those moments don't last as it does turn out that Sidney has a hidden agenda. At the very end of the movie it devolves into all too familiar romantic comedy territory as Sidney realizes he should be true to himself and go after the girl. I wasn't fully expecting the movie to delve into cliché territory, nor do believe that it should have gone there either.

    This is a fairly enjoyable movie, hilarious at times, and refreshing in it's ridiculousness while still keeping a sense of reality. I recommend this movie, even if at times it strays from being true to itself. I enjoyed it, and I'm considering adding it to my overly large movie collection. Who knows if you'd feel the same?

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