Entertainment journalists are very often the last line of defense between movies/movie stars and the general public. We work for the public and are available to disentangle cinematic takes on baseball, superheroes, various wars, Elizabethan times, romantic conquests, car chases, or what have you. But when the material is more or less about us, it's much harder to find some perspective. Based on a memoir by British journalist Toby Young, the very funny new film How to Lose Friends & Alienate People is tough going at first, but it ultimately avoids relieving itself where it eats. And it has an underlying sweetness that should appeal to a large cross section of movie people and people who like movies.
Simon Pegg stars as Sidney Young, an anarchic British journalist who runs his own tiny, gutsy rag, the Post Modern Review. He measures himself against the kinds of celebrities he can get close to, but also despises them and loves to poke holes in their images. When he runs a nasty story on a powerful New York publisher, he receives a phone call and a job offer. Soon he finds himself standing in the office of Sharps magazine and its editor-in-chief, Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges). Sidney idolizes Clayton for a more hardcore magazine he used to publish, and considers Sharps a sellout, but also loves the power and the paycheck it can bring. With his outsider attitude, he immediately begins screwing up and alienating all his co-workers, including powerful publicist ("I don't like that word") Eleanor Johnson (Gillian Anderson) and co-worker Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst). But he's so persistent (and they had such a good, solid "meet-cute") that Alison eventually tolerates him and then warms up to him.