How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
- Miles Fielder
- 2 October 2008
Toby Young’s semi-scandalous memoir about the period the gobby English journo spent carousing with the rich and famous, while working at Vanity Fair magazine in New York is given a mainstream movie makeover with this enjoyable enough romantic comedy. Young’s episodic recollections have been shaped into conventional rom-com format by British screenwriter Peter Straughan and given a Hollywood polish by Curb Your Enthusiasm director Robert Weide.
The rudely confessional and frequently very funny observations about an unsophisticated Brit seduced and then bruised by his experiences among egotistical and humourless high society Americans remains intact, but they’re now framed by a humdrum romance between Sidney Young (Simon Pegg playing a thinly disguised version of the memoirist) and a compassionate colleague, Alison Olsen (Kirtsen Dunst playing a new character written into the film). The will-they-won’t-they love story about these two people who turn out to be more alike than they think is the least interesting thing about the film, and it increasingly dominates proceedings, culminating in a soppy and tediously unoriginal climax.
All of which is something of a shame, because the first two thirds of the film (which draw more heavily on Young’s book) are very entertaining and showcase one priceless performance from Jeff Bridges, who plays Clayton Harding, an even more thinly disguised (than Young) version of Vanity Fair’s silver-maned editor Graydon Carter. Bridges gives a terrific turn as the gruff boss who secretly loathes the glamorous world he lives in and who in a rare sentimental moment employs the unlikely lad he sees something of his former self in. And there’s good support from Danny Huston as Harding’s slimy second-in-command, Gillian Anderson as a PR queen and a scene-stealing Bill Paterson as Sidney’s dad.
General release from Fri 3 Oct.