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How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
UKScreen Rating:

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Subversive British magazine editor Sydney Young (Pegg) will do anything to con his way in to celebrity parties, to try to score a scoop and undermine the stars who keep the entertainment world turning.
One front cover splash too far gets him an ominous call from Clayton Harding (Bridges), the editor of glossy American high-society rag, Sharps.
But rather than threatening legal action against him, seeing something of his younger self in Sydney, Clayton offers him a job in New York.
Like a shot, Sydney is on the next flight to the Big Apple, where he tries to live it up but usually ends up falling down.
After an uncomfortable run-in with a beautiful neighbour (Dunst), he finds himself working for her.
And professionally, he is torn between his sworn aim to bring down the culture of celebrity and the need to suck up to the stars to further his career.
And of course, the lure of beautiful women in the background is always there to lead him astray.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This is one of those odd concepts in that it’s a film that’s based not just on a book, but on a book which is billed, essentially, as being the diary of Toby (I guess he changed his own name to protect…himself?!) Young, as he describes his experiences of being a rookie reporter on a glossy Manhattan magazine.
The only thing is that, as anyone who’s worked with him will tell you, he seems to bend the truth to maximise its creative potential, so much of this supposedly true story has to be taken with rather more than a pinch of salt.
This film doesn’t quite hit the mark. It’s funny, but not funny enough. It’s sharp, but not sharp enough. Sydney himself is wacky and zany, but neither wacky enough nor zany enough.
Neither is he as loveable – or indeed irritating – as the film-makers believe he is or as he needs to be for the film to succeed.
A handful of big stars – such as Bridges, Anderson and Fox – are happy to spoof different aspects of their industry – but as mentioned above, the satire isn’t sharp enough for them to have anything to worry about – it’s more nibbling the hand that’s offering them a treat, than biting the hand that feeds them.
No-one really puts a foot wrong, but there’s nothing that makes this film stand out.
And it’s not really clear what the message is.
Sydney (aka Toby) is conflicted. He wants to prove to the world that it doesn’t need celebrity, but then accepts that actually the world does need celebrity, before finally accepting, with good grace, that while the rest of the world does want celebrity, he’ll have a go at doing without it – which is pretty much where he was when he started.
It’s not really a profound or consistent message and most of the humour ends up coming from how he ultimately conforms – albeit unenthusiastically – rather than capitulates.
I guess the best comparison would be to say that the film is ultimately as pleasant to watch but otherwise as vacuous as the celebrities it aims to parody.

opens nationwide 3rd October 2008

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