Film Review – How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008)

BOTTOM LINE: Only half of “How To Lose Friends and Alienate People” is worth watching. The first half of the film is very funny, witty and intelligently satirical with a well cast Simon Pegg imparting his impeccable comedic timing. The second half of the film is bad/clich? Hollywood script plotting, poor production values and no laughs.

THE GOOD: Simon Pegg is nothing if not a talented comedic actor and his abilities come to the forefront in the first half of this movie. Playing the gate-crashing British magazine journalist Sidney Young, he manages to create an obnoxious and arrogant character that becomes likeable due to his integrity in the face of the American celebrity establishment when he goes to work for the industry-leading Sharps Magazine. Aside from the physical jokes, there are a lot of witty one-liners and some subtle jibes at the American lack of irony, particularly when Sidney begins interacting with celebrity Sophie Maes (Megan Fox), Sharps writer Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst), A-list publicist Eleanor Johnson (Gillian Anderson) and magazine owner Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges).

The laughs range from how Sidney manages to accidentally kill Sophie’s dog to him hiring a stripper to get his boss fired to an hilarious Hollywood trailer of Sophie in the oscar-nominated role of Mother Teresa. The wit is fast-paced and non-stop through the first half of the film, and combined with a somewhat British sensibility to the proceedings, the experience is unique and enjoyable. The cast is also first rate, and seeing the likes of X-Files star Gillian Anderson playing a god-like industry figure and Jeff Bridges playing a somewhat lost but strong-minded Magazine editor is well worth it, particularly in the case of the former who is playing a totally different character and does not remind you of Agent Scully. Megan Fox does well as celebrity starlet Sophie Maes who spends most of the film being promoted as a brand and sex goddess, and Kirsten Dunst is a solid offsider to Pegg’s zany lunacy. The first half of this film certainly sets the stage for an excellent, funny and unique comedy.

THE BAD: Whether the budget got chopped at some point, the scriptwriters went on strike or the director parked his brain at the door half way through the shoot, the second half of this film is absolutely woeful; it is a very clear-cut distinction between the first half and the second half with the downfall starting the minute Sidney gets down on his knees in the rain and begs Eleanor for a chance to write a story about hot new film director Vincent Lepak. The scene arbitrarily reverses Sidney’s momentum as a character and as a result, the film is no longer funny. Perhaps that is meant to be the point in that as soon as he sells out he loses himself, but somehow the first half of the film was so good and funny that to see it turn this way so dramatically is ultimately a major disappointment. The film is also not helped by its poorly and cheap-looking shooting techniques in the second half, with images looking more bare and boring looking, more closely resembling a television show rather than a film. To top it all off, the film ends with the obligatory Hollywood happy ending with Sidney renouncing his new rich lifestyle with the in-crowd so he can be with Alison, a clear about-face in tone given the rebellious nature of the first half of the film. “How To Lose Friends And Alienate People” was on its way to being a great comedy until it got chopped off at the knees with a bad second half. Oh well, at least half of it is worth the effort.

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