There is probably an audience for “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”. I’m just not sure what it is. Perhaps it’s the same as the Dane Cook audience: People who enjoy watching jerks be jerks, have a small moral revelation, get the girl they want, reject her and then get the other girl. Though Cook’s last couple of movies with this premise didn’t fare so well at the box office so I don’t have high hopes for the success of How to Lose Friends. Not that I necessarily WANT it to succeed. The Simon Pegg fan in me does, I suppose. I love all his work with Edgar Wright such as “Spaced”, “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”. But apart from a couple of Star Wars references and Gillian Anderson, there is none of that Simon Pegg here. Yes, I realize he’s ACTING. But he’s acting like a total douche.
Based on the memoirs of Toby Young, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” tells the story of SIDNEY Young, an obnoxious, usually bumbling, self-centered “journalist” with dreams of making it big in the celebrity profile circuit.
But it’s not just the character that’s the problem. Without any prior knowledge of the book or the story, I had no idea what the hell Sidney’s deal was. Was he a party crasher? A paparazzo? A star effer? A LOOKYLOO?! (By the way, is lookyloo a magazine industry term? Because EVERYONE says it. A LOT). It wasn’t until Sidney was offered a job at a “Vanity Fair”-type magazine (for being really good at sneaking into places, I think) that I realized he was supposed to be a journalist.
This movie is all over the map. At times it’s a silly slapstick comedy with Pegg in a latter-day Steve Martinesque role. There is a even a pig gag. Apparently, pigs are the new monkeys. At other times it’s (an attempt at) a biting commentary of pop journalism and Hollywood ass kissing. At still other times, it’s a romantic comedy in which the leads are (HELLO!) obviously with the wrong people and true true love is right in front of them.
OK, so Sidney’s serious, lesson-learning montages show potential but the mess that is the rest of the film is just too, well, messy. And stuck in the middle of this big pile of pig slop is poor Kirstin Dunst. Let’s talk about her character, shall we?
Kirsten Dunst plays Alison, Sidney’s other love interest. The ones he’s really supposed to be with once he realizes that Megan Fox, the Hollywood starlet his loins yearn for, is actually a vapid windbag. Alison also works at the magazine and has a mysterious boyfriend for whom she waits in bars having ordered him a White Russian, while she hand writes her novel into a journal. Of course, her mystery man never shows and Sidney always seems to be there to help her feel really bad about it. If she’s waiting for Lebowski, he’s probably out looking for his missing rug. It really tied the room together.
I really like Kirsten Dunst. She’s fantastic in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I just like her snaggletoothed ways in general. So it pains me to see her play a character like this. Somehow she manages to do it with grace, but she’s still a lonely, pathetic girl with awful, awful taste in men. OK, so I guess it’s the same character she played in Spotless Mind. But a good script apparently makes that character seem more relatable.
SPOILER ALERT!! But who cares. If you’ve ever seen a movie, you know what’s going to happen.
So for the first half of the movie, Alison hates Sidney. And rightly so. He’s an ass and he says horrible things to her. She calls him “loathsome” and she’s right. So for some reason, I had hopes that she wouldn’t end up inexplicably falling in love with him. Maybe he with her. But she would reject him and live happily ever after with Lebowski or even just become a single, successful novelist. Anything but falling in love with the loathsome Sidney Young. But nay. The obvious and inevitable does happen. Without explanation. It just switches suddenly because it’s the third act and it’s time for Sidney to stop being a dick and realize he loves Alison. And since things don’t really work out with Lebowski after all, she’s single and therefore available to date someone she previously hated. That’s just the way women are, you know.
Were there any saving graces to this movie? Well, Jeff Bridges is kind of entertaining (Yes, Lebowski actually IS in this thing. But it turns out he’s not the mystery man). Megan Fox is pretty good as Sophie Maes, the aforementioned vapid Hollywood Starlet who loves to be the center of attention and can’t resist the opportunity to make her nipples hard in front of an entire party. But I’m pretty sure Megan Fox isn’t acting. What else? Um…The lady behind me who was shocked by everything was pretty funny. A cry of “OOOOH JESUS!!” erupted every few minutes. I think those were the only times I laughed. And I guess the pig was kinda cute.