How to Talk to Girls at Parties – Film Review
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Writers: Philippa Goslett (screenplay by), John Cameron Mitchell (screenplay by), Neil Gaiman (based on a short story by)
Stars: Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson
How to Talk to Girls at parties is the latest adaptation of a short story from legendary storyteller and all round genius Neil Gaiman. When you’re dealing with the imagination that brought you the Sandman graphic novels, American Gods, Stardust and Coraline you know you are in for a mad ride, and How to Talk to Girls at Parties does not disappoint on the oddness level.
Set at the height of the British Punk movement in the 1970s, Enn (Alex Sharp) is an awkward teenage boy just looking for love. And after a gig one night he finds himself at a bizarre mansion surrounded by the weirdest group of people you could imagine. Clad head to toe in different forms of coloured leather it is clear from the outset that these people are not your typical group of American tourists. Yet when Enn captures the attention of Zen (Elle Fanning) all bets are off as she is given 48 hours away from the others to experience “the punk” with him and generally go wild the way all out of this world teenagers dream of.
There are funny, engaging moments in the film that leave you reeling and with an intense feeling of “what the hell was that?” in the best possible way. Other sections are such a clear and transparent homage to the classic coming of age/first love movies of old that you suddenly feel as if you are watching a totally different film. This strange and jarring mash up just ends up giving the film a very confused tone that it never quite recovers from. The two young leads do their best to breathe life into the story and their chemistry is engaging. But ultimately the film slumps into the pit fall of trying to pull too much out of what is really a very simple story of normal boy meets alien girl.
What ultimately makes Gaiman’s work shine on the page are all the unanswered questions. A sense that there is an entire mysterious world at play that we only see a glimpse of. Here film maker John Cameron Mitchell tries to explain the weird away ultimately making it a muddled story with some nice camera work.