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Sunday, 2 November 2008

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

It makes no sense, but it’s true nonetheless: one of the many, many unwritten rules of Hollywood film-making that a romantic comedy is somehow superior to a regular, make-'em-laugh comedy. So we get films like How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, where what should have been a good - or even great - straight-up comedy takes a serious turn for the seriously mushy in the final act. What makes it even more depressing is that up until then the romance angle was extremely well-handled: Sydney Young (Simon Pegg doing a bang-up job) is a feisty, muckraking UK journalist - and, to be honest, a bit of a dick - who gets head-hunted to work for Sharpes magazine in the US. It's a new world for Young, one where publicists control access to the big stars the magazine needs to survive and they use that control to ensure they get favourable coverage. Young, on the other hand, prefers to sink the boots in, which doesn't impress anyone he works with, least of all Alison (Kirsten Dunst). And so for a while what we get is a bunch of very funny workplace pranks and blunders spiced up with some A-list glamour (having hot new actress Megan Fox playing a hot new actress helps a lot in this regard) and Pegg's quality face-pulling, until suddenly the simmering romance between Sydney and Alison is shoved into the foreground, things go sour (as they must in all romantic comedies so the lovers can get back together at the end) and this becomes the extremely thin motivation for Sydney to suddenly throw aside his UK ethics in favour of US-style suck-up journalism. Before long he's got everything but love, but as this is clearly one of those “I had it all, then threw it away for love” stories, the ending isn’t exactly hard to spot. It also makes zero sense when you think about it for even a second - good thing the rest of the film is funny enough to more than make up for it.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #439)