Monday, July 22, 2013

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People


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I wrote this on this Sunday evening, 21 June. However, according to my policy from this week onwards, I keep myself at bay from the temptation of publishing blog posts on Sundays. That makes it necessary why this article should find its opening today, on Monday. Yes, I am thrilled about a movie I watched. It was not the best of its kind, but it is not the worst either. These sorts of movies are very rare these days, neither worst nor extremely good. Still, How to Lose Friends & Alienate People kept me hooked, even though I had watched almost two third of it (due to an unfortunate crack in the video), previously. Hilarious script and talented actors keep you indulged in the story.

Released in 2008, How to Lose Friends & Alienate People is a British comedy film based on Toby Young’s memoir with the same title. Spiderman girl, Kirsten Dunst plays the significant role of Alison Olsen, a journalist and writer. The central character, Sidney Young, played by Simon Pegg, dreams to become a superior media figure, the one who is part of the starry universe of celebrities and cinema. In his own words, he wants to be part of the “Shangri la” of movies, where all movie stars live, and live happily, always.

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Megan Fox, plays the role of an actress named Sophie Maes, with a thoroughly uninteresting performance. Simon Pegg can be proud of his performance as Kirsten can, as well, on an emotionally indulging role.

Director Robert B. Weide is good at his job and does not require my certificate on the same, but truly, he could have asked the scriptwriter, to pour in some more elements of wisdom into Sidney Young’s character, to prove him either an intellectual or a fool. I thought someone just waved him in to be an intellectual, frustrated, unable to pitch himself at the right job status, who appears a fool. The latter is how the story goes. We have to wait until the end to see what Sidney chooses for himself.

Sidney’s character is confused, mainly. His choices and background, however, say that he is not a moron drooling over fame. I wonder why the scriptwriter couldn’t do something more that could speak to the world about Sydney Young’s intellectual frustrations. Sydney Young’s character is suffering from a pizza-gruel syndrome. Mix pizza with rice gruel, what you get is a very repulsive mixture of gruel. No one tastes pizza in it, or gruel.    

Sidney Young has wise thoughts, but he has to appear a fool. The story is told through Sidney’s perspective and we understand the former part clearly. The latter, the part of being a fool is only visible to other characters in the movie. In real life, though, Sydney’s actions may stand out as the supreme form of sarcastic catharsis against the centers that dictate power.

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Occasionally, just for filling in gaps of stupid actions, Sidney’s character is asked to play slapstick jokes. Without those additional tricks to “prove” his moronic side, which pops up even in the final scene, where Sidney jumps to save a book that accidentally catches fire, near a candle, the movie seems hilarious. Note that this instance puts the movie in the middle line of neither being a bore nor a piece of gold in this reviewer’s perspective.

Now the most important aspect of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People; look at how journalism and journalists are portrayed in this movie. A very familiar high-society fashion magazine plot works in this movie too, but that literally works. Inside the walls of the magazine is a zoo of perverted form of journalism that is not resolved even at the end of the movie. Only Sidney Young makes a choice.

Success in journalism is portrayed in a very limited sense. It does not seem odd or farfetched, though. It stinks, and the smell is not just coming from contemporary print or TV journalism, but also blogging. The second area one should observe in How to Lose Friends & Alienate People is the absence of the individualism in the labyrinths of glamour and power.

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Although the glamour industry creates their market on the individual’s tastes, the ordinary individual is just as uncomfortable within the premises of the high-society stardom, as the high-society is in the ordinary individual’s vicinity. In other words, How to Lose Friends & Alienate People is not just about high society life or life in Hollywood, although that becomes the publicity material, but also about who or what is absent from the limelight. That is a very crucial concern. Sydney Young sacrifices his individualistic concerns in order to reach the “seventh floor” of success in Sharps Magazine.

The limitations of ‘success’ in the Communist sense and the compromises involved in it makes him lose his way as well. The movie is effective in pointing out that success comes at the cost of compromises. (This may or may not be true, although many people are pleased to buy into this idea). Sidney Young becomes the representative of the individual who investigates into this reality, a seeker of truth.                        
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Post Postum: I should mention Jeff Bridges, as Clayton Harding, and Gillian Anderson, as Eleanor Johnson were superb. I especially loved Jeff Bridges’ accent, as if he were munching a hot samosa in his mouth.  

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