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The International Writers Magazine:

How to lose friends and Alienate People (2008)
Director- Robert B.Weide
Writers- Peter Straughan (Screeplay) Toby Young (Book)
Starring Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst and Megan Fox
Jes Armstrong Review

Simon Pegg is Sidney Young, the cocky journalist that is autobiographical of Toby Young, author of the novel How To Lose Friends and Alienate People. If, like me, you had no knowledge that the story tells a tale that greatly echoes Toby’s epic journey to New York to write for and disrupt a top selling celebrity magazine, you’ll find the film funny. However once you learn that sequences such as hiring a stripper for a colleague during office hours and accidently taking a transvestite back to the apartment are non-fictitious, you’ll find the film hilarious.

Sidney believes he has something to offer the American world of fame. On meeting his new boss, the dry witted editor of Sharp magazine, he manages to humiliate himself by wearing a T-shirt sporting the phrase ‘Young, Dumb and Full of Come’. It is saved from what could be a cringe-worthy encounter because Sidney simply doesn’t care. This is apparent during the movie adding to its funny and light-hearted touch, which is balanced well with the heavier issues of work relationships, both professional and romantic. Kirsten Dunst is sweet and believable as the good-natured, pretty blonde that knows the ropes in a tough industry, and an unlikely on-screen romance between her and Pegg does seem to work when Megan Fox parades around with an annoying dog called Cuba and walks through a swimming pool wearing an already skimpy dress.

The film seems to split itself in two. We are entertained for an hour or so by Pegg larking around, crashing A-list parties, chasing pigs, demolishing everything in his sight and offending the truly famous, before the plot eventually thickens and Sidney’s moral values are challenged. From being determined to shamelessly rip apart the celebrity world by asking interviewees if they are gay to complying with the Sharp magazine etiquette, Sidney’s journey predictably results in him figuring out what is truly important to him. It also, on a minor scale, sees him dealing with issues such as the shadow of his intellectual father, who believes he is wasting his philosophy degree (an asset Sidney in fact shows no signs of).
Whilst the weighing scales draw even on the klutz factor and character goals, I was left pondering on why Alison a) wants to have an affair with her sleazy boss, Lawrence Maddox (Danny Huston) and b) wants to end the affair with her sleazy boss because she is in love with Sidney, a guy she couldn’t stand and has no reason to change her opinion of. Her motives are cloudy throughout, and perhaps I am alone on this but I’d find it hard to fall for somebody who steals my handbag to deposit a dead dog.

Put aside the fact that Toby Young’s true experience of a humiliated Englishman in New York is possibly ignored to cater for the need to see Simon Pegg fall over and in love, the film is a success and justifiably popular. If the story sets out to scare potential journalists, it has probably done a good job but shouldn’t deter them or anyone else from going to see it.

© Jess Armstrong November 2008
Jess is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

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