A British writer struggles to fit in at a high-profile magazine in New York. Based on Toby Young's memoir "How to Lose Friends & Ali enate People".
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
may just be the first true British film--and a splendid one at that--to be set on American soil. The fearless actor Simon Pegg plays Sidney Young, a Fleet Street hatchet writer tapped to come to the States to join the literati, and glitterati, at a big, fat, glossy magazine--every resemblance of which to Vanity Fair is strictly intentional. Sidney is possibly the most annoying man in the Western world, tilting at nonexistent windmills. His character calls to mind many of the hapless charmers played by Hugh Grant--but Pegg, without Grant's raffish good looks, comes across as simply hapless. Which is perfect casting, since Sidney is supposed to be enormously aggravating, especially when he first lands in New York. In his first few days in the city, Sidney puts off the first magazine colleague he met (Kirsten Dunst, in a top-flight comic turn), wears a wildly inappropriate T-shirt on his first day of work, spritzes fast food onto the designer white suit of a relative of the publisher, and picks up a tranny hooker. And things go downhill from there. On his first magazine assignment, Sidney, checking captions for a photo page, calls a powerful publicist. "Is he the fat one?" Sidney asks the publicist about one of her clients. Silence. "Well, is he the one with the wonky eye, then?" Pegg is a scream as Sidney, playing quite a different role than his starring one in Shaun of the Dead
. Dunst is delicate but steely, and her comedic timing, under the deft direction of Robert B. Weide (Curb Your Enthusiasm
), is spot on. Great supporting work, too, by editor Jeff Bridges, whose enthrallment to the power elite, and silver mane, channel Graydon Carter; by Gillian Anderson, as a take-no-prisoners publicist; and by Megan Fox, a starlet cast as a bosom-heaving Mother Teresa. Sidney, and the film, will win you over, with a lot of laughter along the way.--A.T. Hurley