Toby Young (most recently a host on “Top Chef”) wrote a book called, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” after moving to New York to attempt writing for Vanity Fair. The story follows Sidney Young (Simon Pegg, “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”), a character you can either love or hate (though the movie really does make it hard to hate him) whose small magazine needs a big scoop or else it will go under (which, sadly, probably isn't out of the ordinary these days, with magazines folding left and right.) Since his youth, Sidney dreamed of being part of the celebrity world because he thinks that's where he'll find true happiness.
Still, despite his obsession with celebrities, his magazine focuses on writing about them with an honest approach and without all the fluff. Needing to save his magazine and get one good story, he does his best to sneak into award shows and after parties, and he even manages to get in and meet some celebrities (including Thandie Newton - Pegg’s costar from “Run Fatboy Run” - in a small role as herself). Unfortunately for Sidney, his moment amongst the stars is short-lived.
After crashing a party thrown by Sharps, head Editor Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) contacts Sidney to come work for his company in New York. Sidney assumes Clayton wants him to work for him because he used to run a similar magazine to Sidney’s small, off beat, alternative magazine. Clayton, however, tells Sidney that’s not the case - he wants Sidney to start on the low-end and work his way up. Along the way, he meets Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst) who works in the same department as Sidney at the magazine. The two have an oil-and-water relationship, and - at least for a while - attempt to make the worst of the fact that they are stuck together having to attend the same parties. There's also the fact that no one else wants anything to do with Sidney, who manages to get himself into trouble wherever he goes.
While the film starts of rather slowly with some clunky dialogue and obvious jokes, it really picks up at a rooftop party where Sidney comes face-to-face with everything he loathes about celebrities. There, he meets publicist Eleanor Johnson (Gillian Anderson) who walks around talking up her clients to the writers. While the magazines have the power to write the article on celebs, she's the one that brings the celebs to the table in the first place. At the party, she introduces her new starlet, Sophie Maes (Megan Fox) who slips into the pool in her cocktail dress and makes her way across the water while posing for photographers. Instant stardom.
Thankfully, Director Robert Weide has experience directing not only comedies, but comedies about characters that certainly know how to lose friends and alienate people. Best known as the director of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Weide does a fantastic job keeping the jokes coming, and the awkward moments just uncomfortable enough. While “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” isn’t nearly as alienating as “Curb”, it certainly has moments. Pegg was the perfect role as Sidney because he manages to deliver an offbeat performance without making us hate his character.
In fact, the people you do end up not liking are those that work at the magazine and the people who occupy the celebrity world. The rest of the story follows Sidney as he bugs Clayton about writing a non-fluff piece, as he is propositioned by Eleanor to steer the story the way she wants, and as continues to put his foot in his mouth a few too many times. “How to Loose Friends and Alienate People” follows Sidney and his rise into the world he thought he wanted to be a part of and the price he’s willing to pay to stay there.
The best moments are between Sidney and Alison who have a sweet relationship that never feels overdone. Pegg and Dunst are surprisingly good together, and they play off each other perfectly for the role. The scenes between Bridges and Pegg are also wonderful, as Bridges is the perfect person to play an alternative writer turned head editor at a glossy magazine. Gillian Anderson and Megan Fox also offer good performances as the publicist-client duo. While “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” wasn’t without some rocky moments, it managed to come together nicely and delivered on the laughs as well as the sweeter moments.
VIDEO: "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The screening copy of the film that was provided offered average image quality, with inconsistent sharpness/detail and some noticable instances of pixelation and shimmer. However, this is still not the retail copy and unfortunately, I cannot make any final comments on it, as the retail copy will hopefully offer better image quality.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation offers...well, not a whole lot. The film's sound design is purely a comedy mix, with very little in the way of surround use, aside from a couple of sound effects and some light ambience. Overall, audio quality was fine, with crisp, natural-sounding dialogue.
“Making of Featurette” Set up like an interview, this making-of offers a decent variety of interviews and information. Even Toby Young provides some thoughts. This feature touches on casting choices, turning the book to film, and personal experiences making the movie. This isn’t really an in-depth look at how the film was made, but it’s still fun for fans.
The audio Commentary with Director Robert Weide and actor Simon Pegg is a great addition to the disc. There are several laughs here along with some insight into making the film (character development, story, etc.) Weide and Pegg seem at ease with each other and bounce ideas and jokes back-and-forth well. Their conversation never really lags and they manage to share quite a few good tidbits.
Audio Commentary with Director Robert Weide. This is a more personal perspective on the film from Weide. While we get some repeat comments here, there are also a lot of new insights that Weide - who is making his debut here as a feature film director - offers.
Previews for “Choke” and “Slumdog Millionaire”
Final Thoughts: "How to Lose Friends" really didn't get much notice when it hit theaters last year, but the film is a very enjoyable comedy with solid performances. Worth a look.
The Film B