Movie Review for How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008)

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Review #688 of 365
Movie Review of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008) [R] 110 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $12.50
Where Viewed: Kerasotes Cherry Creek 8, Denver, CO
When Seen: 23 September 2008 @ 3:00 pm
DVD Release Date: Unscheduled (please check back)
After the Credits: there is nothing after the credits, but the trailer for the fake film Teresa staring Sophie Maes does play mid-way through.

Soundtrack: order the CD below

Directed by: Robert B. Weide ("Curb Your Enthusiasm" )
Screenplay by: Peter Straughan (Mrs. Ratcliffe's Revolution) based on the book by Toby Young

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Kelan Pannell (debut) • Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz) • Megan Fox (Transformers) • Gillian Anderson (The X-Files: I Want to Believe) • Jeff Bridges (Iron Man) • Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man 3) • Danny Huston (30 Days of Night) • Max Minghella (Art School Confidential) • Margo Stilley (Reverb)

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In a word, pretentious, that's one way to describe How to Lose Friends & Alienate People. Just look at the title. Seriously? One day, when I'm all out of material, I'm going to do a comparative analysis seeking a mathematical relationship between number of words in a film's title and box office success. Just offhand though, I'm going to assert an inverse correlation: Titanic, The Dark Knight, Spiderman, and Shrek. Of course, many of the erudite film critics I lambaste for their acceptance of swag, free films, and caviar parties would shun my analysis and say there is often an inverse correlation between box office success and quality of a film in the first place. So, to that I'd say they have a small point were it not for the fact that there is some inarguable correlation between a lot of people paying good money to see a movie and people liking a movie no matter how much we who see so many more movies than average people see might hope. Indeed, I wish people would see more and higher quality films than they tend to find at most multiplexes. Still, I would not be one to say that all films debuting on 4000 screens in North America are automatically bad. And well, if you're not one for such lofty pontification littered with the droll dry humor of the Brits, not to mention again the pretentious title taken from the best-selling novel upon which it is based, then you're not likely to enjoy the likes of this UK-lottery funded film (Got to love the Brits using lottery money to fund films. We use our lottery earnings to preserve parks and recreation districts or to shore up public school budgets, they create money-making assets that bring new revenue streams forever and employ otherwise out of work individuals.)

The story here is just full of pretentiousness from the canned opening scene of the main character, Sidney Young (Simon Pegg), reflecting back on his days of yore in yesteryear Gloucester where, as a young kid, the son of an actress and philosopher, secretly pined for the Shangri-La of all places, to be among the Hollywood movie stars in all their glory and luxury. As a grown up, he's spent the last how many years running a schlock London tabloid and losing money faster than he can bring it in. His dreams of becoming a celeb journalist of the stars seem all but dashed, until Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) calls from across the pond to offer him a job at Sharp Magazine. He shows up in NYC in complete awe of it and arrives at his tiny apartment and dragon landlady ready to write the next chapter of his life.

… cannot be easily discarded as a Brit's eye for the American Guy take on USA celebrity.
His first night begins with him learning that hipster Brit style is as about as welcome here as a pimple on Paris Hilton's retouched Glamour Shot. After revolting every woman he encounters, he retreats to a quieter bar to nurse his wounds and try again. The immediate victim of his redoubled efforts attempts valiantly to ignore him, so, of course, another woman a seat down comes to her rescue claiming the seat he's in is actually her boyfriend's who's on his way. So, naturally, he switches to hitting on her. Minutes later she dumps him with the 'girl' of his dreams whom he discovers back at his apartment has unexpected parts. And all of this in the first few minutes. And all of this to show what will continue to be shown for the next 80 minutes or more what a genuine, idealistic, and charismatic person Sidney Young is despite coming across to USAers as 'all signs directing toward complete Loserville'.

Truthfully, the film is really nothing more than an elementary love story hidden behind a mask of incalculable pretentiousness. It's unclear if that was the goal, but it's how the film turned out. Pretty much anybody with a pulse will predict the ending long in advance. In that, the plot unfolds more like a carefully plotted chess match than an electric romantic comedy. If you are silly enough not to have seen this coming, well, then lucky for you.

All of that said, H2LF&AP is uproariously funny nonetheless almost exclusively because of the extraordinary talents of leading man, Simon Pegg. This rare, comedic actor well known to those USAers who proved brave enough to trek out to see his US film debut Shaun of the Dead and later the British spoof action cop dramedy Hot Fuzz. He is the real deal. The film signals the same sort of coming of age for Pegg as his character eventually enjoys in the film--hopefully with fewer compromises to his own personal code, however. Jeff Bridges, too, plays the definitive role at this stage of his career as the eccentric editor of Sharp Magazine. From his flowing silver locks to his compulsive card flipping habits to his Zen rules of rooms and corporate ladders, he's absolutely perfect & an early candidate for best supporting actor nomination. Less impressive are the leading ladies, unfortunately.

… uproariously funny…almost exclusively because of the extraordinary talents of leading man, Simon Pegg.
Not terrible, by any means, and clearly this film was written and made for men even if the gossipy approach should appeal more to women. Clearly, these guys don't get real women and it shows up in their characters. Gillian Anderson has a blast with her character as uber, don't tall her a publicist, publicist to the stars. But, make no mistake she's a pretentious cut out character managing two others of the same type. It's Kirsten Dunst, sadly, who seems the most pale and shallow throughout, however. Hardly the gorgeous romantic girl that charms the suit off Spider-man, it's partly her sardonic delivery or perhaps some over-compensating in an attempt maybe to hide the ending, but mostly it's just the way the character was written. Whatever the case, she's not the magical sort of character or girl one can actually picture being the object of so much affection. Danny Huston, like Ms Anderson, also has a terrific time with his character, the 'cadfly' Lawrence Maddox. Clever as well are the casting of Megan Fox as the superstar-in-making, Sophie Maes, and Max Minghella as the wunderkind director, Vincent Lepak. If you've not yet quite gotten that sense of pretentiousness referred to above at least several times, then perhaps just the character's name Vincent Lepack should signal that bell for you.

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People cannot be easily discarded as a Brit's eye for the American Guy take on USA celebrity. Instead, it should be highly regarded for the basic comedy and the breakout role for Simon Pegg. On the whole, yet, the film will leave many people with an average diet of mainstream films feeling a bit put off. It's like being in on an inside joke and realizing it's possibly not as humorous as you thought when you were on the outside.

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Cast Members
Kelan PannellSimon PeggMegan Fox
Gillian AndersonJeff BridgesKirsten Dunst
Danny HustonMax MinghellaMargo Stilley
Robert B. Weide
Peter Straughan

Review-lite How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008) [max of 150 words]
Simon Pegg plays the leading character in How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, the story of a British tabloid journalist crossing the pond to write for Clayton Harding's (Jeff Bridges) Sharp Magazine. A film about just these two might have been better, but the film drifts about masquerading as insightful when really it's a stretched out romantic comedy with little real romance.

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