Posted by Ken Spivey
Based upon Toby Young’s 2001 memoir and pseudo-confessional, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” is the uproarious tale of journalist Sidney Young’s ascension from a hack to a successful hack. Young tracks the rich and famous, writes scathing stories about them, sleeps with many of them, all while reaping a whirlwind of trouble along the way. His career receives a major coup when he is offered a job at the prestigious “Sharps” magazine. Toting witty comments and salacious attempts to bed every beautiful actress he meets, the story of Sidney Young’s (Simon Pegg) rise to journalist nirvana is a laugh a minute and a sincere delight from inception to completion.
At no moment in this film did I stop smiling nor laughing. “Alienate People” successfully does what film and television have failed to do in the past; it portrays men through a masculine lens while not mocking the inherently masculine tendencies of the character. In the past, most major forms of media have been rather keen show a man who acts like a man as a either a buffoon, a failure, or both. Recently, shows such as “Nip/Tuck” and movies like “High Fidelity” are finally presenting men as men. Sure, the methods we use to get through life are not politically correct, nor do we often times want to repeat them to ourselves, let alone other. On the other hand, there are many men who are not the nicest people in the world who do succeed. Young’s film highlights this well.
Snuck in through the back door while nobody was looking, this character study of a smarmy journalist and his many conquests held a rather dear love story. Kirsten Dunst shines in her performance as Alison Olsen, Sidney Young’s rival and primary love interest. The chemistry between Dunst and Pegg is nearly palpable. Unlike Neo and Trinity in “The Matrix,” this love story made sense. The characters were socially dissimilar personalities that were forced to coexist, finding mutual understanding during times of crisis, and were able through a subtly brilliant bit of acting to relay this romance to the viewer.