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Tuesday, May 18, 2010:
What I'm watching: How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

Toby Young's scathing roman à clef about his stint working for Vanity Fair is rather loosely adapted for the screen in this film of the same name. Young briefly worked for the high-profile magazine in the mid-1990s, and upon his dismissal he penned a snarky memoir that went on to become a major bestseller. Now, in the film version, we have Simon Pegg as Sidney Young, a cocky journalist who is hired by editor Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) to work for Sharps magazine. Sidney arrives in New York with grand plans to expose the ridiculousness of modern celebrity culture, but Harding forces him to work on puff pieces with fellow writer Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst).

Sidney refuses to adapt to the glitzy magazine world, and is ostracized for his offensive, sloppy behavior. He and Alison--a frustrated novelist at heart--trade barbs and bond over their terrible jobs, slowly developing a quirky camaraderie. Things take a turn when Sidney meets Sophie Maes (Megan Fox), an ambitious starlet. He becomes determined to get Sophie into bed, no matter the cost, and after several madcap incidences involving crushed Chihuahuas and transsexuals, he finds himself suddenly sucked into the flashy world of Sharps. In danger of losing himself completely, he tries to figure out what it is he really wants, and what he is willing to sacrifice to get it.

Bridges puts in an amusing performance as the lackadaisical Harding, and Gillian Anderson is perfect as the icy P.R. queen. Some might feel Pegg, a hugely talented comedian, was perhaps miscast in this rather straightforward comedy; the film is sharp in places, but doesn't come close to capturing the caustic claws of the book. Rather ironically, a story that takes on the nonsense of Hollywood appears to have become a part of the very machine it meant to mock.

Thanx to JentheGingerKid, I rented this movie last week and absolutely adored it. It sounds like something that would be really obnoxious and smarmy, which, admittedly, I don't think I would have minded. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was looking forward to the experience.

To be honest, Sidney is very annoying in the beginning, with shades of paparazzi all over him, as he chats up Thandie Newton. Then he's hired for a U.S. magazine and he thinks he's struck career gold. Turns out the editor who hires him is a long-time hero of his, someone he's modeled his brand of journalism on. Only when he gets to New York and meets the editor face to face, he discovers ass-kissing and pandering to the "stars" is what his job will entail, and it's not something he ever intended to do in his career. He's feeling disillusioned by his once snarky, fearless idol, and starting at the bottom of the ladder is not where he sees himself.

However he sucks it up once he encounters - and instantaneously lusts for - Sophie Maes (irritatingly played by Megan Fox, a mega star who does silly little things like wading up to her neck into a pool wearing a fancy dress and playing the part of Mother Teresa in a movie. She may be young and nubile, but I found Gillian Anderson's character to be much, much sexier and interesting. And funny.

But Sidney wants Sophie, and even if there are moments he feels something stronger for Alison, who was originally his nemesis but soon becomes his friend, well that must just must be gas because he wants Sophie. Really, he does.

My thoughts:

Charming! I found this movie to be unexpectedly sweet and likable, and even Kirsten Dunst who usually annoys me was endearing in this film. The only person I didn't care for was Megan Fox, but the rest of the casting was lovely. It's funny, strange, romantic and yet so simple. Simon Pegg as Sidney at first comes across as one of those really creepy guys who hits on women and has a big mouth, but he became a convincing leading man here. I would have have thought that when we first see him trying to crash a big party. Yet the guy has charisma, and it funny and sweet.

So though the title may suggest hijinks and gags, it's a little deeper than that. If you're looking for straight hijinks and no real substance, it does have that on some level, but this might not be exactly the film for you. I'd suggest going in with no preconceived notions, and just see where the film takes you. I liked it way more than I thought I would, and even developed a bit of a crush on Sidney, if you can believe it (!) It was just a fun movie, and I'm so, so glad I watched it. Thanx Jen for talking it up on Twitter!



  1. I love Jeff Bridges and Kirsten Dunst so this movie should be no hardship for me to watch. Thanks for sharing and you have an award at my place:

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  2. Yay, so glad you liked it! This one really surprised me. I enjoyed it for all the same reasons you did.

  3. While I love VF magazine, and used to buy 'Snipe' when 'Clay' wrote it, I found the film hysterically funny and I had to look up the screenplay writerPeter Staughton who went on to write Men Who Stare At Goats.

    Apparently the HTLFAAP book is even more vicious so I will look for that now.

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