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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 8.33%
Average: 25%
Pretty Bad54.17%
Total Crap: 12.5%

3 reviews, 6 user ratings

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How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
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by Erik Childress

"Pegg & Bridges Only Ones Not Living Up To The Title"
2 stars

There are few more fascinating tales to exploit these days then the notion of celebrities and their relationship to the media. And vice versa. Particularly to people on the inside of the industry who still hold out hope that things like journalistic integrity and respecting people’s privacy are not antiquated notions drowning in an ocean of puff pieces, quote whores and TMZ. My own personal stake in the system prevents my direct association with established names through 10-minute interviews unless I truly believe in their project or particular talent. HTLFAP, as it would be known in our culture of shorthand, is based on the experience of one Toby Young, who may have written the book it’s based upon but in its two-hour summation appears to have had no real experience at all or, at least, no insight into the dubious nature of compromise and ironic double standards that come with the job. If it weren’t for the contributions of Simon Pegg and Jeff Bridges in the film’s two key roles, the film would be an ultra-lame missed execution of what could have been this generation’s prime tell-all of what passes as news for them.

Pegg stars as Sidney Young, a UK gossip hound running an entire operation out of his apartment with an unpaid staff, disguising himself to get into the glitzy events in town. His latest stunt somehow gets him a job from one of New York’s top celebrity mags. Editor-in-chief Clayton Harding (Bridges) throws him a temporary gig on the low end of the totem pole where his brash devil-may-care style butts heads with section head Lawrence Maddox (Danny Huston) and Michigan native Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst). Sidney has hardly ingratiated himself well in his first 24 hours, desperately trying to take in the NY party lifestyle and dressing the part of an internet basement rat rather than an office professional.

At his first office event, he becomes acquainted with hot new starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox), being introduced to the world in film as a young Mother Teresa and on the page as someone who will cross the room through a pool fully dressed. Handled by Don’t-Call-Me-Publicist Eleanor Johnson (Gillian Anderson), Sidney is presented with the opportunity to do a piece on a pretentious film director (Max Minghella) but balks when the clause of “editorial approval” is the primary stipulation, he would rather “shake things up” and write satirical features on the hotsy-totsy, but corporate and entertainment policy won’t allow such high-profile venues to dim their starlight in any way. As patience grows thin over Sidney’s contributions he nevertheless begins to bridge the gap from pest-to-friendship-to something more with Alison and any opportunity for the film to “shake things up” becomes just as lost.

The rooting interest in an outsider coming in to expose America’s celebrity culture for all its faux hipness and self-involved pretentiousness is tempered depending on how you feel about the National Enquirer going mainstream and sites like Perez Hilton and TMZ already taking it to the next spectrum. What’s the big deal? What can he possibly do that several hack journalists and satanic paparazzi haven’t done already? Unless this is a direct period piece and the filmmakers wanted to tie in the real Toby Young to a further lowering of the standards we supposedly fought for three centuries ago, his memoirs don’t have any real relevance today. “Let’s not forget that we’re the real story and not them,” a standard we have steadily forgotten since James L. Brooks introduced it in 1987.

Peter Straughan’s script doesn’t know how far it wants to go with Sidney either. Introduced as an obnoxious wannabe git, we’re supposed to appreciate his lack of couth around the big-money corporate setting and his enthusiasm to dig into private lives. Journalistic integrity of ignoring prepped interviews and off-limit questions is all well and good but not when the journo’s goals are somehow sleazier than the handlers trying to protect their jerk clients at any cost. Many of those covering the industry (particularly those on the junket level) would love to get a sniff of Megan Fox’s panties; easy when they have their nose so close to the ass of the moviestars and anyone who can get them ten minutes with them. So Sidney’s ultimate goal of sleeping with Fox’s Sophie could be utilized as its own expose of a nobody selling out for just a little taste of the red carpet life, not as a plot device to conflict with the burgeoning feelings for his co-worker. “We live in their world, but it is THEIR world,” said Robert Duvall in The Paper and it’s hard to believe that he’d see Sidney/Toby Young as any kind of movie hero.

Pegg’s performance therefore becomes the film’s greatest weakness and yet greatest strength. He has no problem playing the fool in the first half, wafting through situations involving babysitting a dog to disasterous effect and punking Huston’s Maddox with a transsexual strip-o-gram on Take Your Daughter To Work Day. But because it’s Pegg who is impossible not to like if you’re any kind of fan of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz or TV’s Spaced, we never come close to fully hating Sidney. And Pegg is so naturally funny that we’re often distracted from how confused and generic the screenplay is, especially in his scenes with Jeff Bridges who is again dead-on as the magazine’s top dog who guardedly harbors a means to stop placating the Hollywood elite. When Bridges practically goes AWOL in the second hour, the film’s flaws begin to shine brighter than a million flash bulbs on a shaved cooter exiting a limo.

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People is actually worse than any star rating can suggest, since its liable to be trumped up thanks to the contributions from Pegg and Bridges. As a biography its not really fascinating in the least. It exposes less about the glitterati and journalism than a daily click on Egotastic. You might expect Kirsten Dunst to want to bring more fire to her role considering her own bouts with celebrity dish rags. Instead we’d rather see someone like Emily Blunt in The Devil Wears Prada match wits with Pegg. Prada, being another generic film that HTLFAAP owes to, at least seemed to have a little know-how about the industry it was covering. Director Robert B. Weide has done the bulk of the brilliant Curb Your Enthusiasm and that brand of discomforting humor is just one of the elements that his feature debut is sorely missing. It’s at this point that many critics will make some quip on the film’s title doing precisely that to the audience looking for a little inside baseball, but there’s so much general familiarity going for it already, why add to it?

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originally posted: 10/03/08 14:00:00
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User Comments

11/08/10 mr.mike Tries to be 2 different movies. Despite Pegg and Bridges , it fails. 2 stars
5/19/09 art watch it only,if you have nothing,to do. 1 stars
3/17/09 DK Cool film 4 stars
1/10/09 daveyt well, I enjoyed it. So there! 4 stars
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  03-Oct-2008 (R)
  DVD: 17-Feb-2009


  DVD: 17-Feb-2009

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Robert B. Weide

Written by
  Peter Straughan
  Toby Young

  Simon Pegg
  Megan Fox
  Kirsten Dunst
  Gillian Anderson
  Jeff Bridges

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