From small town, small budget comedies to a big city, big budget comedy in a matter of days. Good God, is there anything I can’t do?
Loosely based on writer Toby Young’s memoir of the same name, How To Lose Friends & Alienate People follows Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) as he leaves his humble British magazine Post Modern Review to work for glossy New York mag Sharps, headed by Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges). Young also meets co-worker Alison (Kirsten Dunst) who is very frosty towards him. The plot didn’t really do anything new. It’s the same old “fish out of water” plot dragged out every now and again and dressed up as something new. So much so that you can predict the sort of gags that will come up- misunderstandings, clashes of culture- things like that. However, How To Lose Friends… does eventually start doing something interesting with the plot about halfway through, providing you are still paying attention. Pegg was pretty funny (although he’s funnier when he’s spouting lines he’s actually written) and Kirsten Dunst was just Kirsten Dunst- however you may feel about that. The funniest character for me was Jeff Bridges’ Clayton Harding who was just a joy to watch.
From what I gather, Toby Young’s source memoir is more a damning piece of writing, criticising not only the fashion/celebrity world but himself for being part of it than the traditional romcom formula we are given here. However, I haven’t read it so I can only judge on what the film brought to the table. And, whilst it does bring a lot to the table that we’ve seen time and time again- it does some interesting stuff too. Pegg is just likeable as Young, which is probably what rubbed the readers of the book up the wrong way. Yes, he does some shallow and selfish things, but you can’t help but like him. I swear, the man could set my dog on fire and repeatedly punch my mother in the face and I would still smile and tell him how great Shaun of the Dead was. I really liked Megan Fox’s Sophie Maes too- and not just for the obvious reason. Fox actually seems to be acting in this film, which is a change from certain other films starring massive lumps of computer wizardry.
How To Lose Friends… is a mish-mash of different genres. Whilst this could be a good thing, I don’t think it is in this case. For every witty line (and there are several) there’s some slapstick which lets the film down somewhat. There’s nothing wrong with slapstick, it’s just I preferred the dialogue to Pegg falling off things and getting slapped.
I was surprised how much I liked How To Lose Friends & Alienate People. I liked Simon Pegg in it, Gillian Anderson was great and Jeff Bridges was simply fun to watch. I get the feeling that if it had stuck to its witty guns, rather than bringing out the broad comedy slapsticks it would have been a fantastic film instead of simply a great one.