Simon Pegg steps out from the dark humor of zombie-killing and crime-stopping and into the awkward humor of career-building in “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People.” Directed by Robert B. Weide and adapted by Peter Straughan from Toby Young’s partly fictional book, “How to Lose Friends” centers on Brit-born Sidney Young (Pegg) and his year-long ride into the star-studded world of magazine publishing.
Ever since he was a young boy, Sidney has yearned to be amongst the famous and fabulous of the movies, to live in the Shangri-La he resolutely believed the actors and actresses dwelled. With first-person voice-over narration, the film leaps into present day where Sidney is wearing a fancy tuxedo and designer watch and attending an awards ceremony with newly inaugurated starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox). The story then flashbacks to the year before the glitz and prestige of Sidney’s life as production manager at the highly regarded, prize-winning Sharps Magazine.
As it turns out, when not trying to sneak into film premieres and after parties, Sidney runs a counter-culture type of publication called Post Modern Review. After chatting up Thandie Newton and making a stir of flash photography at a party, Sidney strikes a sentimental chord in Sharps Magazine’s founding editor Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges). Sidney receives a job offer and away to New York City he goes. Four months into it, though, not only does Sidney overstep his place on the professional ladder, but he also repeatedly annoys coworker Alison (Kirsten Dunst), the closest thing he has to a “friend.”
If one were to search for the instructions stated in the film’s title (of how to lose one’s friends and alienate people), one wouldn’t get very far. Sidney doesn’t have any friends to lose; his behavior and personality are more in line with being socially inept. His failure to internalize the etiquette of a corporate environment provides narrative opportunities for comedy and speaks to a vision of alternative voices mocking and exposing the mainstream and the pretentious. Sidney might not do as the Romans do when in Rome, but he’s a far cry from the shifty-eyed weirdo that nobody wants to sit next to on a bus.
“How to Lose Friends & Alienate People” packs a full plate of gasps and giggles, features an indomitable and sophisticated Gillian Anderson, and could be a male version of “The Devil Wears Prada.” If only losing friends and alienating people included the accusation of having sold out by turning into a completely different (and mean) person, then coming to one’s senses while still managing to take advantage of hard work already done and sacrifices already made.