I feel that only when every imaginable facet of entertainment has been part of a crossover with everything else, that humankind will finally stop and think of something original. Aliens are a key cornerstone of this. We’ve had Aliens’ crossover with predators, cowboys, and nerds over the years. Now to round off the list we have an alien crossover with punk rockers in How to Talk to Girls at Parties.
Set in the late 70’s, How to Talk to Girls at Parties comes out swinging with lots of loud rebellious punk imagery, really setting the scene and showing us (or, in some cases, reminding us) what life was like for teens of that era. It’s based on the short story of the same name written by Neil Gaimen, and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, who you may remember directed Shortbus in 2006 (and if you’ve ever seen Shortbus you’d know it’s difficult to forget). How to Talk to Girls is a teen coming of age fare, but with the added spice of endlessly quotable lines which really remind me of peep show (“I was in despair, but now I’m in another band called lipstick which formed from the remnants of despair” is an early standout).
There’s some great talent on display here. Elle Fanning is the girl who’s more than meets the eye; Tom Brooke and Matt Lucas make appearances along the way. The relatively fresh Alex Sharp is wonderfully dorky as main character Enn, and his naivety in the face of something no one could possibly understand is charming throughout. Nicole Kidman of all people shows up playing a cross between Malcolm Tucker and David Bowie, which is exactly as much fun to watch as it sounds. Safe to say things get pretty weird pretty fast, but I won’t go too much into specifics because it’s a neat little plot, expanding upon Gaimen’s short story without taking too many liberties. Plenty of fish-out-of-water romantic comedy going on here, set against the grimy and tumultuous backdrop of late-70s London.
Honestly, there’s not much more to say. The scenes which go full-on psychedelia look like a fever dream in a paint shop, exactly as they should be, and the aforementioned Peep Show-style dialogue never fails to draw out a chuckle. Clocking in at 102 minutes, it’s not bloated or overstuffed. A rom-com from beyond the stars, that just so happens to take place in South London. I’ll leave you with a final quote, a rare instance of poignancy in a completely mad movie (which, despite the title, doesn’t really tell you how to talk to girls at parties).
“Just remember that you’re you and she’s her; and together that will be…another thing”.