See if you can follow the bouncing ball here: Toby Young, a pompous British wanker with little actual literary talent, wrote a memoir “skewering” the celebrity publishing industry, ironically enough taking aim at journalist hacks with little actual literary talent who capitalize on their associations with celebrities. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People succeeded, strangely enough, because of Young’s very ability to capitalize on his associations with publishing celebrities like Graydon Carter (Vanity Fair) and Tina Brown (The New Yorker). Moreover, in the memoir, while much of Young’s rancor was directed at publicists, those sycophantic wheel greasers who connect journalist to celebrity, it was those very publicist-types who arguably made his book the moderate success it was, despite the fact that both Young and the novel were insufferable bores (does anyone remember the ass-kissing coverage the book received five years ago? Well, of course it did — it came from the publications it supposedly took aim at, because those magazines knew if they gave the memoir the slamming it deserved, they’d be perceived as bitter. It was a politically genius move on Young’s part — corner his subjects into giving him positive coverage). In the memoir, unfortunately, Young failed to recognize that, while self-deprecation can be amusing and effective in small doses, at a certain point it just turns into another form of self-absorption. Indeed, the memoir was one long self-fellating tome, which we were supposed to laugh at because Toby Young’s autoerotic dick-sucking was lousy.
Cut to five years later: Toby Young sells out to Hollywood, which fictionalizes the memoir into a movie that “skewers” hackery and the vapidity of the celebrity industry. The ironic twist? How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is a vapid hack job, one that’s only chance at success is to capitalize on the very types of celebrities (Kirsten Dunst, Megan Fox) that Young supposedly railed against in his book (under pseudonyms, of course).
Have you fallen down the metafictional hole yet?
Now, let me give you a little of that straight talk that’s so popular these days (*creepy wink*): Put aside the meta-hypocricy of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and what you’re left with is a stupendously awful movie. It is bad. Lifeless. Banal. Horribly acted. Predictable. Poorly paced. Unfunny. Pointless. Slow-moving. Agonizing. Cloying. Idiotic. Fangless. Obvious. And shallow. My God is it shallow. And it’s a movie about how shallow the fucking industry is. The hyper-irony is rich and relentless. It’s like saving an economy destroyed by greedy assholes who frittered away our money by giving them more of our money to fritter away. I. want. to. punch. someone. in. the. brain stem.
I am appalled with this movie. I am appalled because it could’ve been something. I am appalled because it pulled all the punches, even those aimed at their own faces. I am appalled that it’s a sell-out movie about not selling out. I am appalled that Simon Pegg — a guy who didn’t need to sell out — sold out to this horse shit anyway. I am appalled because, while the book was bad, people, the film is worse. The memoir at least had some personality. Granted, it was the personality of a smug, self-important witless twit. But the movie doesn’t even have that. It’s a big, heaping spoonful of suck.
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People follows Sydney Young (Pegg), a British pud trying to make a name for himself by cozying up to celebrities. After he disguises himself at a waiter and crashes a celebrity after-party in London with a pig, he gets noticed by Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges, the only redeeming part of this film, Pegg included), the fictional version of Graydon Carter, who runs Sharp Magazine. Sydney starts low on the totem pole, where he becomes smitten with another low-level editor, Alison Olsen, played by Kirsten Dunst, who turns in a performance as hideously bad as she’s ever turned in. Ever. (There were a few scenes that were so awful my upper lip trembled with anger, so pissed off was I that the director, Robert Weide, couldn’t even be bothered to do a few more takes and capture something that resembled acting.)
Alison, however, is in love with the magazine’s real sycophant, Lawrence Maddox (Danny Huston), who starfucks his brains out to get a decent story. Naturally, Sydney hates Lawrence, but as the movie progresses, he predictably becomes more and more like him, selling out his soul to land a story about Hollywood starletard, Sophie Maes (played by Hollywood starletard Megan Fox, who turns in a decent performance as herself).
I’m sure you can guess where it goes from there; let’s just say that, unlike Almost Famous’ William Miller, Sydney Young doesn’t write an unflattering piece on his subject. In fact, he doesn’t write one at all, because there’s more important things, like winning the lousy fucking girl and fitting within the romantic-comedy formula.
God, I hated this movie. And I hated it even more because it pretended to be something it wasn’t: A bitchy send-up of the Hollywood and publishing industry. It was neither bitchy, nor a send-up. You know what it was? It was more of the same. And they didn’t even bother to put any lipstick on the goddamn pig. They just shoved it out there and tried to make you forget how bad it smelled by winking at you. Well, here’s a sharp stick. Let’s make that wink permanent.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives in Portland, Maine. You can reach him via email, or leave a comment below.Metafictional Hypocrisy
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People / Dustin Rowles
Film | October 3, 2008 | Comments ()