How to Talk to Girls at Parties
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Written by Philippa Goslett and John Cameron Mitchell based on “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” by Neil Gaiman
Starring Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson, Matt Lucas
Let us be honest. Most of us just floated through our high school years, being awkward towards each other. Some found love. Some found passion. Some found validation. Some struggled just being. I am certain that the social aspect of high school has changed since I graduated in 1994, but the clustering of social groups and tendencies has not.
What is interesting about John Cameron Mitchell’s “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” is how Philippa Goslett and Mitchell’s script, based on the short story of the same name by Neil Gaiman tries to bisect a hippy – sci fi feel with modernized characters. Unfortunately, it does not always work.
Enn (Alex Sharp) likes to rock it out with his friends, but does not know how to court a companion. Zan (Elle Fanning) is a member of an alien collective sent to observe Earth. When Enn and his chums stumble on to their abode, it is as if two star-crossed lovers reached out through space-time to find one another.
Though Enn’s mum (Joanna Scanlan) is a part of his life, she really just keeps the lights on for him. There is a hilarious scene where Enn and Zan have slept together, unbeknownst to his mum and when Zan waltzes down the stairs, the look of incredulity on his mum’s face is priceless.
The surprising casting in this film is Nicole Kidman as Queen Boadicea who is Enn’s surrogate mum. She keeps the ruckus in her club to a minimum as she tries to find a hole for Enn and his chums to play their sets (badly, of course.)
While the fireworks go off between Enn and Zan, the story careens just as wildly. Not that I have experienced this, but the best way to describe the happenings in the story is like an acid trip gone bad. You are lucid enough to know that the love is real, but the politics of the alien visitors, especially towards the third act, are so ludicrous that Congress should actually take notes.
While the story’s energy just does not support the character’s energy, the movie never really stumbles in terms of pacing. Brian Kates’s editing does a solid job of using the performances to move the story forward.
Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” “Shortbus”) uses his rock n’ roll sensibilities to create a quirky atmosphere, which I appreciated. Looking back at my screening, there is an opening CGI shot of the universe, which slowly coalesces into several colored molecules; the effect reminded me of Relativity’s logo trailer when it is in fact part of the films’ opening shot. I am laughing at myself now for even admitting this, but the cheekiness of the effects worked on me.
The quirkiness of the performances and the direction, which feels much like a stage play will work on most audiences, but the story itself is far too light to carry the film to its logical conclusion.
Rating 2 out of 4