HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS & ALIENATE PEOPLE
A defanged adaptation of Toby Young's barbed memoir about being fired from Vanity Fair. Simon Pegg's bright-young-thing routine (as celebrity journo Sidney Young) becomes just plain goofy as he grasps for fame, a hot actress, and coworker Alison (Kirsten Dunst). Media types will savor the Devil Wears Prada--ish caricatures of magazine heavyweights--like Jeff Bridges, in a leonine gray wig, as Graydon Carter. But the flick also works as a broader satire, hilariously skewering celeb culture and our slavish fascination with it.
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
Blissful nuptials get messy when the bride's spotlight-whoring, straight-outta-rehab sister shows up. That's the premise of this beautifully observed drama from Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme (no gore, but plenty of family gristle here). A de-glamorized Anne Hathaway, playing the troubled sister, joins a terrific cast that includes Debra Winger as the neglectful mom and Rosemarie DeWitt as the put-upon bride. But the film's real star is the vibrant, emotionally raw screenplay by Jenny Lumet. Its brutal honesty captures the oh-so-competitive kinship of sisters.
It's easy to spot wannabe eccentrics: off-kilter wardrobe, unfiltered gabbing, unfounded hope. But as Poppy, an endearing London schoolmarm who learns to drive a car from a man as surly as she is chipper, Sally Hawkins triumphs over cliché. This is decidedly lighter fare than the bleak dramas director Mike Leigh is known for (Vera Drake, Naked). Thankfully, he never strays toward the predictable--not that plot matters for a sunny heroine who figures life is in the here and now, so why trifle with self-pity?