Journalists, eh? What. A bunch. Of Pricks. At least, that’s what you would make from films: no-one is allowed to be anything but a money-grabbing, fame-hungry, back-stabbing lowlife. Apart from one noble person in the office who wants to be doing worthwhile work, but instead is getting frustrated while they try and file copy for Heat magazine.
As boring as these stereotypes are, they at least make sense. They certainly don’t make sense when you try and cram them into the same character, as has happened with How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a film that tries to have its cake, eat it, then throw it up and give a moral lecture about the evils of the sugar industry.
Simon Pegg is Sidney Young, a Brit journalist who lands a chance to write for Sharps magazine, which certainly ISN’T based on Vanity Fair. He’s obnoxious, constantly chasing skirt and spits food out with alarming regularity. Which is where Simon Pegg first falls down. The first half of the film shows him unconvincingly try to do things that he’s just too nice and puppyishly asexual to pull off. It’s like watching David Miliband star in the new Tucker Max film.
Half way through he has a series of (increasingly unconvincing) epiphanies. And all of a sudden, lots of character motivations are displayed that haven’t been shown in the rest of the film. Which makes him more believable for the rest of the film, but doesn’t make up for what’s gone before it.
It also displays the point in the film when the production decides that, hey, chasing celebrity is an empty pursuit that leaves you skimming along on the gloss of life without truly engaging with it. Which would be much more believable if it wasn’t so chuffed with itself for getting cameos from people like Thandie Newton, and having a cooler-than-thou soundtrack that is awkwardly shoehorned in.
Kirsten Dunst is wheeled out as the love interest, and turns in the same loathsome performance that she produces in everything that I’ve seen her in. Jeff Bridges is much better as the editor of the magazine, bringing in Young to try and recapture his rebellious youth. But he doesn’t get anywhere near enough screen time.
The film in general is massively disappointing, but there are entertaining snatches that mean it rattles along just well enough. But these people should be doing better, and there’s no getting away from the fact that the main problem is Pegg. This is a bit like correctly accusing a nun of being a murderer – you know you’re right, but it’s just terrible to do because they’re just so bloody nice and you know no-one is going to believe you. But he just can’t carry this film.