Movie Reviews
2:31 pm
Wed October 1, 2008

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

A pig at the party . . .

"The tabloids are like animals, with their own behavioural patterns. There's no point in complaining about them, any more than complaining that lions might eat you." David Mellor


The first half or so of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is a witty take on the shallowness of the publishing industry, specifically the tabloids. With the recent demise of the New York Sun, the precariousness of any publishing is real, so there is much room for satire and reflection.

Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) arrives in the US from the UK, home of serious tabloid terror, to bring the magic of his Post-Modern Review to Clayton Harding's (Jeff Bridges) Sharps magazine, a high-profile New York rag. It was Sidney's bringing a pig to a party that caught Harding's interest to bring him to NYC. It was Sidney's irreverence that endeared me to him for a while.

The first half or so develops a sharp Sidney, defying convention and lampooning media-obsessed talent, but nary a word written in four months. Believability aside, Sidney is a populist Jimmy Stewart exposing the falsity and egocentrism of celebrity.

But then?he becomes a successful editor, eschews his founding philosophy of honesty and integrity, and begins a journey to fame and fortune that he would have deplored in his early days. So while the formula for this kind of comic realism is preserved to the end, with a Hollywood ending to make you cringe, a violation of the cynicism on which investigative journalism is anchored.

I will remember the feisty young journalist that was Sidney, defying the stuffy but secretly rebellious owner and just about anyone else in his way. To see if he ends up like Jimmy Stewart giving a great speech about honor, you'll have to see the film. For me, I can't forget the denoument because it's been written a hundred times before. Just don't expect The New York Times.