Monday, June 15, 2009

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

Simon Pegg is one of Britain's most likable comic talents, so he's definitely playing against type in tackling the role of Sidney Young - the unlikeable protagonist of 'How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.'

A movie adaptation of Toby Young's painfully earnest autobiography, the film follows scrappy hack Young as he 'hits the big time' and moves from London to the Big Apple - to become a writer for the prestigious glossy magazine 'Sharps.'

Within hours of arriving in New York, Young manages to piss off, antogize, alienate or offend just about everybody he meets - resulting in a film that's so squirmworthy you'll want to leave the room just to avoid witnessing the cringe-inducing results of Young's career suicide.

'How to Lose Friends' is produced in part by Film Four - and the 'Britishness' of the script shows through. There's something akin to an old episode of Fawlty Towers in all of Sidney Young's misadventures. The chaos is cumulative - with Sidney's 'solutions' to each problem just immersing him deeper and more inextricably into the chaos.

However, towards the second half of the movie, Hollywood takes over. Soon, a pitch-perfect comedy morphs into a cheesy romance - as Sidney Young has to decide whether to pursue his publishing aspirations, or abandon them all for the colleague he's been having a love-hate relationship with.

Ultimately, what starts out as a really original film becomes a mish-mash of cimematic cliches... The high-profile abandonment of his successful career, the race to rendezvous with his abandoned love interest and the climatic kiss beneath the backdrop of the Brooklyn Bridge.

It's not a bad movie, by any means - Jeff Bridges is excellent as evil editor Clayton Harding (a thinly-veiled portrait of Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.) However, the whole thing is just so cynically 'Hollywood' that it ultimately comes across exactly the same as the character of Sidney Young - 'sold out.'

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