A funny thing happens in the moments before the opening credits to a film adapted from one of your favourite books. You get this brief reality check, push-and-pull where you want the film to be even better than the book but know in the very back of your mind that the chances it will are very slim. How To Lose Friends and Alienate People is unfortunately no different.
Based on the 2002 memoir of British journalist Toby Young, who spent five years trying to make his mark in the United States as a contributing editor of Vanity Fair magazine, the film switches up a few names and places here and there, and somehow manages to produce a film that has almost nothing in common with the book that inspired it.
If you have the chance to ask anyone who read the book before seeing the film, I can almost guarantee you that most of us will have one qualm in common: Simon Pegg, the leading star. And yes, it is kind of a big qualm to have about a film.
The real Toby Young (whose name becomes Sidney Young in the film ) is narcissistic, unrelenting, nasty and well, just so not Pegg. While he is admittedly a gifted comedic actor, Pegg is just too sweet-faced and likeable for a role like this and instead of coming across as someone you love to hate, he manages to turn the character into someone who we sympathetically end up rooting for. A prospect that I think would potentially revolt the real Young, who famously hired a strip-o-gram for a Vanity Fair staff meeting, continuously blew off deadlines, and vomited on his co-workers.
The film’s version of Young is hired to work for the New York-based entertainment magazine Sharps after his novice publication writes a critique of its editor-in-chief Clayton Harding (played by Jeff Bridges and loosely based on Fair's eccentric editor Graydon Carter ). A dream come true for the young aspiring journalist (who actually has little real talent for writing ), until his lifelong obsession with the celebrity world quickly comes crashing in around him as his outspoken nature and cringeworthy behaviour quickly alienate him not only from his co-workers but also from the celebrities whom he is being paid to interview.
But what is the film really? Nothing but a glorious cover-up for the triangular love story that occurs between Young, his hated colleague Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst ), and a sexy, rising starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox ).
Kudos will be given where deserved, however, and if you must see this film for one reason only Gillian Anderson would be it, in a brilliant portrayal of a powerful celebrity publicist with all the connections in the city.
Our best advice? Save the €8 cinema cost and splurge on the book for less than €12 at Eason's.