5 out of 10

Release Date: 19th November 2011 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Dominic Burns (Allies / UFO (2013) /Airborne (2012) / Cut)

Cast: Simon Phillips, Craig Conway, Gemma Atkinson, Stephanie Leonidas, Colin Salmon, Chris Grezo, Martin Compston, Dominic Burns, Sheridan Smith, Larissa Houghton, Rita Ramnani, Peter Barrett  with Martin Kemp, Neil Maskell, Adele Silva, Billy Murray and Richard E. Grant

Writer: Chris Grezo & Rupert Knowles


To Proof & Edit: Here’s a down market coarser version of the Will Smith vehicle Hitch.  You know the plot. Dork seeks to be accepted by women and goes about employing a love guru, attains the girl of his dreams, leaves his friends behind, dream girl is a bitch, falls for ignored best friend, the end.  Was that a spoiler?  Not really, because if you like these kinds of movies you’ve already seen twenty just like it. How To Stop Being a Loser also features the staple last minute dash to the airport! Arghhh!  So what’s left to distinguish this is the embellishments in it’s margins.  Most of what’s on offer consists of spunk and fart jokes, but it still manages to have a modicum of originality and energy.  For the most part though How To… overstays it’s welcome by abandoning it’s stupidity and becoming straight jacketed by a very tired format.

What How To.. has in it’s favour though is a very large and game cast.  Yes, it’s stuffed with all the usual suspects that hang around the independent movie scene like the plague but at least most of them look like they’re having a good time.  Colin Salmon (STALKER) actually achieves a career best in my opinion as the psychiatrist our hapless hero, James (SIMON PHILLIPS – FALL OF THE ESSEX BOYS) and titular loser tells his story to.  His incredulous and unprofessional shrink would have stolen the movie if were not for the army of familiar faces via for attention in a parade of weird walk-on roles.  Chief of whom is Richard E Grant (WITHNAIL & I) who is as fab as ever in a fleeting role as fellow loser, Ian.  Neil Maskell (KILL LIST) also shows up as a sensitive gangster with a sideline in palm reading<?>  Billy Murray (THE BILL) runs around with a garden ornament in the shape of Paddington Bear under his arm for most of his screen time and lastly Martin Kemp (JACK FALLS) has fun as king of the love guru’s Zeus!

The leads are competent enough. Simon Phillips shows his flair for comedy. He should concentrate his energies here. The quality of his contributions to indie drama are still in question.  His James is convincing and he looks the part. Maybe Simon Phillips is a nerd in real life and that’s why James is a snug fit for him.  Joe Pesci II’s (the other contributor to Britpic) favourite Craig Conway (AIRBORNE) takes the Will Smith role and he’s pretty awful to tell you the truth.  If someone like his Ampersand could pull a modern woman with ease… Actually, this doesn’t take place in any kind of reality I recognise so I’ll drop that line of enquiry.  He rushes about like a cross between The Mask and Drop Dead Fred to zero comic effect and he’s a huge reason beyond the film’s formulaic approach that How To… is the clunker it is.

The women are better than they normally are in indies. Gemma Atkinson (HOLLYOAKS) is suitably sexy and evil as the unattainable crush at the centre of James’ predicament and the underemployed Stephanie Leonidas – wonderful in Mirrormask – is fiery as the neglected best friend, Patch.  They are well-sketched and you actually find yourself boo-ing (mildly) Atkinson and cheering on the mousey yet beautiful Leonidas.  Dominic Burns the director went on to improve with Airborne but then got aspirations as a screenwriter and then directed the butt asteroid that was UFO.  His efforts fall between the two here because there is enjoyment to be had. It all depends how forgiving you are.

5 out of 10 – Utterly derivative of better rom-coms but it does have a weird life of its own once you look behind the endless spunk jokes and delve into the rogues gallery of cameos supplied by a bunch of game name actors who wanted a bit of light fun.  Also ex-Luton boy Colin Salmon accidentally submits the best performance of his weird career and of the whole film.  Someone in the know, get Phillips to do more comedy!





  1. Review by Matt Usher


    I don’t watch romantic comedies (or ‘romcoms’ as they are apparently called by the lazy people in the trade) very often, so when I do I’m usually pleasantly surprised. Even in this case. Which is all the more surprising given the ingredients of HOW TO STOP BEING A LOSER. Firstly our star is Simon Phillips, that perplexing enigma of modern British cinema. Secondly, we have a plot slightly older than the ark. Thirdly the characters (all of them) bear no relation to what you or I might regard as reality. Fourthly, things like character and plot development are either clunkingly bad or deeply improbable, or both. And it’s about ten minutes too long.

    And yet. There are a few laugh-out loud bits (some of them intentional) and it’s all done in a not too fluffy way (you will not cry at any point). And the actors are having fun, but not too much. And the plot twist is up there with SIXTH SENSE and FIGHT CLUB.

    But what is this film, who is the loser? Following the death of his friend and fellow-loser, Simon Phillips decides to put his life back on track by getting the girl of his dreams (Gemma Atkinson) who seems to have turned up at the friend’s funeral for no reason other than to kickstart the plot. Being a loser, Phillips hits the internet for salvation and finds it in the unlikely form of professional jack the lad Craig Conway. Conway guides Phillips in the art of chatting up women and before you know it, following japes and escapades, Phillips has got the girl of his dreams. And then things start to go wrong! OK, I’ve made this sound more interesting than it is. Suffice to say the girl of his dreams is a nightmare and Phillips foolishly turns his back on his friends (including Stephanie Leonidas possibly the most unlikely loser in film history; it will take you the work of but an instant to work out which of the two women Phillips should be with). Can true love save the day?

    There is a huge amount wrong with HOW TO STOP BEING A LOSER. Beside the cardboard cut-out stereotypes and a plot taken from Romcoms for Beginners, there is the fact that Richard Curtis has clearly had no involvement. This is a bad thing. I’m sure he could have polished it into something a bit better.

    The only reason to watch the film is to see a load of Britpic actors behaving as if it’s their day off. Craig Conway is great fun as the guru of love. However, are we meant to believe any of the tripe he utters? Even the film-makers don’t seem to know. His performance is certainly energetic, just unbelievable (and you may wish to look away at a particular moment when he’s in bed with Phillips – sort of). Ah, Simon Phillips! you strange man. I’ve said it before, and I say it again, you are an atrocious movie tough guy. But this film proves, beyond any doubt, that you are a potentially pretty decent comic lead. This is where your future lies; at times you even made me chuckle, in a good way. Elsewhere the film becomes a Britpic beano. Here’s Billy Murray as a mysterious man with a heavy ornament. And there are Martin Compston and Dominic Burns making up the numbers. And there’s a cameo from Martin Kemp as the love guru’s love guru (this sub-subplot is even more tenuous than anything else in the film, almost as if Kemp pleaded to be in the film, no matter how small the part; mind you he is surrounded by models in all his scenes). And Neil Maskell sends himself up beautifully as a sensitive gangster (obviously there’s a gangster in it, this is a low budget British indie after all). And here’s Rita Ramnani wasted in a tiny role as usual. And here’s Richard E Grant! Yes, Richard E Grant! Right at the start of the film, so much so I wondered if I’d put the wrong film on. But there he is, in a film which must count as one oh his low points. And yet, within two minutes of it starting, he’s fallen even lower. Gemma Atkinson is good as the dream girl, and she’s good as the villain of the piece, but there is never much suggestion of a transition between the two (or maybe that’s the film’s bleakly misogynistic point? I’m sure it’s not misogynistic, but a celebration of true love and friendship – honest). And Sheridan Smith pops up to steal a scene (just the one though – almost as if the film-makers were unaware that she was about to be revealed as the official award-winning leading actress of her generation). But the acting honours go to Colin Salmon. This is clearly his finest hour. He may just be the psychiatrist Phillips visits to cure his cheese-phobia (that might be a spoiler but it’s thrown away in the film’s final scene so you might not spot it) but he is quite brilliant, effortlessly stealing the film.

    So take a look at HOW TO STOP BEING A LOSER, but only for the performances, which range from the sublime (Salmon) to the non-existant (Keeley Hazell as a woman with a bag). There’s a lot of bad taste comedy, some of it funny but a lot of it just there for the sake of it. And there are some truly abysmal moments, the best of which is when the loser friends arrive at the airport to stop Phillips making the mistake of his life. They look round in despair, ‘we’ll never find them’ says one. Half a second later ‘there they are!’ This is a film which has no grounding in character or psychology (the bits where cheese and the photograph are used as plot points and symbols of incompatibility are truly weird) but it passes the time pleasantly enough. Except when Craig Conway is ejaculating obviously.

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