Review: How to Lose Friends And Alienate People

By Gerald Aaron, October 3, 2008


There is a great deal to enjoy in this amusing roman à clef based on British journalist Toby Young's best-selling memoir of his rather less than glorious two years as a contributing editor of the prestigious magazine Vanity Fair in New York.

For obvious reasons Young's sardonic story of decline and fall has been smartly fictionalised by screenwriter Peter Straughan.

He has given the book's series of autobiographical vignettes an effective narrative arc which neatly takes celebrity-obsessed Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) from the creative chaos of co-editing the Post Modern Review magazine in London to New York when Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges), editor of the celebrated Sharps magazine, unexpectedly offers Young a job.

Young's optimistic bite of the Big Apple turns out to be a hilarious succession of comic faux pas, social catastrophes that have Harding dubbing him the magazine's "very own idiot savant - without the savant". Despite his frequent disasters, Young still manages to romance his colleague Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst) - but she prefers another staffer.

Young has been triply lucky with a film whose director, screenplay and key casting could hardly be better. Pegg is perfect casting for the accident-prone celebrity hound and Bridges is very funny in a delicious riff on his laid-back stoner character from the The Big Lebowski.

It is hardly a masterpiece, but still good clean, and sometimes enjoyably dirty fun.

Last updated: 2:59pm, February 18 2011