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Film

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

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Jeffrey M. Anderson

Journalists are very often the last line of defense between movies/celebrities and the public. So when a movie like How to Lose Friends & Alienate People—about an entertainment journalist who must decide between truth and hype—comes along, it veers dangerously close to home. Nonetheless, the film never quite relieves itself where it eats; it’s funny enough to wear down even insiders.

The Details

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
Three stars
Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Megan Fox, Jeff Bridges
Directed by Robert B. Weide
Rated R
Opens Friday, October 3
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How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
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Pegg stars as Sidney Young, a scrappy British journalist who likes to poke holes in celebrity culture with his tiny rag, the Post Modern Review. One such story gets him invited to join the staff of a big-time New York magazine, Sharps, run by hardass Clayton Harding (Bridges). Once there, he becomes obsessed with sleeping with rising starlet Sophie Maes (Fox), while slowly, unexpectedly falling in love with his more humble co-worker, Alison (Dunst). (Alison’s favorite movie is La Dolce Vita, a huge influence on this one.) A crafty publicist (“I don’t like that word”) played by Gillian Anderson expects Sidney to play ball and write clean, career-boosting stories, but he bungles that as well as every other scheme he tries; he even manages to accidentally kill Sophie’s little dog!

Working from British journalist Toby Young’s memoir, director Robert B. Weide (of the excellent, Oscar-nominated documentary Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth) has made an American film, but with a British sensibility; he layers good, broad, dry jokes onto the bones of a traditional Hollywood plot arc. And Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) proves himself an adept leading funnyman. Here, he’s more concerned with nailing the laughs than building a character, but perhaps that’s for the better, since Sidney, after all, is supposed to lose friends and alienate people.

The highly skilled supporters work wonders as well, notably Bridges, the wonderful Dunst, with her usual hint of heartbreaking sadness, Danny Huston as a sleazy junior editor and the haughty Anderson. Fox is still just a pretty face, but she manages a brilliant parody of a flighty, fickle actress (at least we hope it’s a parody). Her appearance in a bad trailer for a Mother Teresa biopic recalls the much more clever and more pointed Tropic Thunder, but this movie has a sweetness that comes only outside the velvet ropes.

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