How to Talk to Girls at Parties Review
Take The Man Who Fell To Earth, mix in a measure of Sing Street, and pepper with Sid and Nancy aesthetics, and some drugs, don’t forget the drugs, you might get something a little bit like How to Talk to Girls at Parties. Based on a story written by the modern fantasy master that is Neil Gaiman, the man who has given us such works as Stardust, Neverwhere, and the epic that is American Gods. The original story was quite slight and when the movie adaptation was announced I was curious as to how it could be expanded. The result from director John Cameron Mitchell is something that is undeniably weird, but also oddly charming.
A young punk Enn (Alex Sharp) and his friends try to get into the afterparty for a local band, but instead end up at a gathering of some very strange individuals who are visiting London from somewhere much further away than America. There, Enn meets Zan (Elle Fanning) a mysterious and beautiful girl, and together they form a connection that is stronger than the universe itself.
There is something very enjoyable about How to Talk to Girls at Parties with its mixture of teen ennui, sci-fi ideas and philosophy. As Enn and Zan spend their limited time together they explore their feelings for each other and what individuality means to them. Elle Fanning manages to really sell Zan as a character, someone who could have easily just been a flat naïve “manic pixie space girl”. She is a mystical figure of Enn’s romantic interest, but she clearly has her own things going on; a journey and desire for her own sense of identity and new experiences outside of her society that whilst her relationship with Enn facilitates is entirely her own, as are her decisions. Against the backdrop of grey stagnant London she sees wonder and life.
There is a sense in the film of the desire for rebellion and freedom; emotional, sexual, and societal. The setting of the movie in early 1977 London means that there is a backbone to the film of anti-establishment, rebelling against systems if said system no longer works, and the duty of one generation to the next. Obviously, this is a parallel to the state of punk youth in Britain at the time but is something that many today will find equally relevant.
However, there are some things which people will probably have a lot of trouble getting on board with. If you don’t have much of a taste for angsty teen self-discovery shenanigans, then it probably won’t be for you. It also gets weird. Really weird. One more trippy vision sequence will also leave some scratching their heads and wondering if hallucinogenics had been slipped into the popcorn. I’m also not entirely sure what Nicole Kidman and her “attempt” at a London accent as punk rocker Queen Boadicea are doing here, as her role could pretty much be filled by random punks with very little difference, but at least she looks like she’s having a good time.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties has the makings of a low-key cult hit. It’s different, it’s interesting, but it’s bizarre approach will mean that it’s not for everyone. It’s a little messy in places, but hey, that’s punk.