How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
Yeah, her acting’s tremendous. No, I’m not looking at her eyes.

Theatrical Release Date: 10/03/2008
Director: Robert B. Weide
Cast: Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Megan Fox, Gillian Anderson, Jeff Bridges, Danny Huston

Hollywood loves making films that are self-deprecating and show they have a sense of humor about the ridiculous nature of their industry/lifestyle. These satirical barbs are often welcome because it’s nice to see the rich and famous take themselves a little less seriously.

However, undertaking such a project can mean walking a fine line between realism and mocking. Too much of either ruins the effect (though I prefer to lean towards mocking) and in “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”, it’s not that there isn’t a decent amount of both but that the mix creates something far more bland that I would think is intended.

You see, the problem with the film isn’t a lack of opportunity or execution in regards to the eccentricities of fame and celebrity – it’s that there was about as much energy to the production as a 20 watt bulb.

I’ll begin with the good bits and give kudos to Simon Pegg. He’s been a favorite of mine for some time now and the reason I wanted to see this film in the first place. He plays his character excellently and it’s just a shame he wasn’t apparently given more free reign to make the role more biting and funny. Throughout the course of the film, his character experiences the ups and downs of that “glamorous” world on the other side of the spectrum – however, the development of the journey was too much of a hurry up and wait situation to allow me to settle in for the ride.

Oddly enough, I’m not going to bash Kirsten Dunst’s involvement here … too much. There are some very bad acting moments when she’s supposed to be drunk and sad (maybe method acting would have been better for her here), but aside from that she filled the needs of the role adequately. It’s a shame her character is such a cliché and the resolution of her relationship with Pegg at the end of the film comes so fast you wonder if there’s more film coming even when the credits begin to roll – but what can you do? That’s the way the script, direction and editing happened to go (I’ll gripe more specifically in a sec, don’t worry).

Filling out the cast are Megan Fox as a vapid starlet on the rise (funny they cast her), Gillian Anderson as her agent/publicity manager and Jeff Bridges as the owner of a successful popular culture magazine which hires Simon Pegg and thereby sets the film in motion.

While I love to joke about her acting up to this point in her career, I do give Fox credit for taking a role that is directly aimed at actresses like her; pretty but not so well-respected by critics or fans for anything other than her looks. Anderson does a nice job of playing the snooty elitist and there was potential for more with her character but that was left on the cutting room floor apparently. Perhaps the biggest waste of talent goes to Jeff Bridges, who had enough lines that they could have filmed his entire role in a day with a little logistics … it also didn’t require much of a stretch for him in regards to acting.

Actors and actresses out of the way, we move on to the reasons “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” both lost and alienated me, so to speak. Simply put, the script, direction and editing all could have used a Red Bull. The whole production was just so lackluster and devoid of life. The scope of the project tried to incorporate the witty send-up of celebrity, a love story and a full character arc for Simon Pegg to take on. It simply didn’t work within the framework of the production, as some elements were too rushed, some took too long and others just fell flat.

I get the feeling this is one of those novels that’s so clever and witty that much of it gets lost in the translation from page to screen. I really, really wanted to give this a passing grade because of how much I think of Simon Pegg … unfortunately, he just wasn’t allowed to do enough here to earn “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” more than a 2 out of 5. There are some decent moments but overall, it’s rather bland, far from satirical enough and just couldn’t hold my attention very well … then again, maybe I’m biased because the title of the film could just have easily been the title of my autobiography?