Oct 20, 2018

[Movies] How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017) Review

The writings of Neil Gaiman are much beloved by fans around the world and in recent years it feels like more and more television and movie executives are greenlighting projects based on those works. But beyond his full-length novels, even his short stories can be used to inspire feature-length movies.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties is one such adaptation with a somewhat unexpected creative team behind it. The movie aimed to add on other themes on top of the original story to create an entertainment piece that is a distinct, evolved version of that first story.

I recognize that the structure of this movie is not an easy one to understand right off the bat and the narrative style is quirky, sometimes a bit too quiet and also understated. But I still enjoyed it despite those quirks and found some resonance in the story it wanted to tell. It was both a celebration of Neil Gaiman's original story and something else entirely - perhaps something just a little alien in nature.

Synopsis: How to Talk to Girls at Parties is a 2017 science fiction romantic comedy movie directed by John Cameron Mitchell. The screenplay was written by Philippa Goslett together with Mitchell as based on the short story of the same name written by Neil Gaiman.

Enn (Alex Sharp) is a young man with a serious love for punk rock and he and his buddies don't just celebrate the music but also what punk is really supposed to mean when it comes to living your life. But when they get lost on their way to an afterparty after a great punk set at a local pub, they somehow wander into a most unusual home with very foreign residents.

This party is not quite your typical social gathering, primarily because it's a house full of aliens in human form. The Enn works past his social awkwardness around girls to talk to Zan (Elle Fanning), a rather rebellious alien who is determined to better experience Earth culture despite the strict rules and restrictions of her group. And so she eventually decides to venture out of the house with Enn to learn what punk is really all about.

What I Liked: I was rather amused at how the whole punk rock element became a major theme alongside the whole ending up at an alien party premise from the original short story. This movie is a grant celebration of the music genre that was also a subculture unto itself with Nicole Kidman delivering one heck of a performance as the punk mother figure Queen Boadicea. And thus the later confrontation was not just humans challenging aliens but alien control facing the freedom of punk.

Elle Fanning did a good job as the precocious Zan and managed to appear both as a teen but also not quite human as needed by the scenes. She and Alex Sharp had a quirky on-screen chemistry that was charming during key moments and added a warmth and honesty that helped the movie greatly.

What Could Have Been Better: The movie starts out a little confusing and at times slow in terms of pacing, which is tricky for the early part of any movie. Throw in some complex metaphorical implications about who the aliens are supposed to be and what they represent and you get maybe a little too much going on at once.

There's a lot of semi-philosophical rhetoric dropped here and there throughout the movie that sometimes lands and but just sounds like so much jargon, especially when contrasted with wild punk music or other crazy scenes. Not even the charm of our protagonist couple was enough to get past a lot of the more confusing bits to make the movie feel a bit more mass market.

TL;DR: How to Talk to Girls at Parties is a hard movie to love but it feels like a more unusual amalgamation of a Neil Gaiman story and a John Cameron Mitchell cultural creation. It's an oddball sort of romantic comedy with some pretty far out aliens thrown into the mix but I still liked it. And thus the movie gets a good 3.5 crazy fun alien dance battle moments out of a possible 5.

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