HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES
REVIEW: HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES
Running Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: 11th May 2018
Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell
Cast: Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson
Screenplay by: Phillipa Goslett, John Cameron Mitchell
Cinematography: Frank G. DeMarco
How to Talk to Girls at Parties started out as a (very) short story written by Neil Gaiman. And that’s how it should have stayed.
Set during silver jubilee week of 1977, How to Talk to Girls at Parties follows young punk Enn (Alex Sharp) as he searches for a house party. After getting lost, Enn and his two friends end up in the wrong part of suburbia and stumble upon an avant garde freakscene involving very un-alien aliens, including a latex-clad Ruth Wilson in the attic and Matt Lucas dressed up as Leigh Bowery in the kitchen. One of these aliens, Zan (Elle Fanning), escapes for the weekend, goes home with Enn and learns about society, conformity and rebellion. It’s a real scene, man.
Director John Cameron Mitchell (Shortbus) and co-writer Phillipa Goslett shoot for insta-freeze-dried cult classic status, but completely miss the mark and land in Morons from Outer Space territory (remember Morons from Outer Space? Exactly). Originally shot in 2015 (with Sheffield standing in for Croydon), How to Talk to Girls at Parties has taken close to three years to secure a release. After sitting through it, it’s not hard to see why. This sub-Xanadu oddity would be more at home in the counterculture cinema of the 1970s, when the tolerance for hippy dippy twaddle was far higher.
Nicole Kidman shows up as a Vivienne Westwood type, and gives us her very best ‘Enry ‘Iggins. Why exactly Nicole Kidman shows up is a complete mystery. It’s hard to imagine how this weak, amateurish material would ever seem appealing. Stick in a couple of anal probing “jokes” and a troublesome “England for the English” subtext and the whole thing starts to look very ugly indeed.
Mitchell has obviously watched too many BBC4 documentaries, and adopts an Andrew Lloyd Weber, stage school approach to punk. Safety pins, gobbing and flicking the Vs are very much the order of the day. The musical sequences are cringe-worthy. The non-musical sequences are also cringe-worthy. It’s not Sing Street bad, but it’s still bad.
Neither Kidman nor Fanning will have too much trouble putting this sorry mess behind them, but How to Talk to Girls at Parties may well be a damaging blemish on the thin résumé of Sharp. It’s a pity. He is far better than the material he’s given, and is the best part of this by a mile. But if anyone deserves credit here, it’s purely for managing to deliver this nonsensical claptrap with a straight face.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties is an embarrassment for everyone involved.