LFF 2017: Punk Teens And Aliens Teach Us How To Talk To Girls At Parties

Credit: StudioCanal/Image Net

As Nicole Kidman’s Queen Boadicea says we all need to “evolve or die”,  and there is no doubt that with his new movie; director John Cameron Mitchell’s style has evolved and How To Talk To Girls At Parties is a whirlwind of punk, fashion, love, and discovering your identity.

The movie which is based on the Neil Gaiman short story of the same name, tells the story of teenage boy Enn (played by Tony winner Alex Sharp) and his whirlwind romance with alien Zan (played by Elle Fanning). Punk Enn along with his friends Vic and John (played by Ethan Lawrence) discover that aliens have landed and Enn meets Zan who wants to change the status quo of how things are done, and the pair go on a voyage of growth and discovery with the help of Queen Boadicea and her band of punks.

The film marks Mitchell’s first feature film since he directed Kidman in Rabbit Hole, however the feeling of this movie is more reminiscent of his early movies with the use of cut scene animation and the active inclusion of the music as part of the story telling.

The soundtrack to the movie is perfect for the story and kudos to Sharp and Fanning for singing live in the punk party scene and it shows the trust that Mitchell has in his stars that he can allow them this freedom. Mitchell himself also contributed to the soundtrack both writing and performing songs which appear in the movie. A companion soundtrack is due for release later this year on Sony Masterworks.

Kidman is glorious as punk leader Queen Boadicea, who is a failed punk svengali and is always chasing the next big thing, however throughout the movie we see a softer side to her especially when Zan is being forced into making a decision she doesn’t want. Seeing Kidman in such a different role was a breath of fresh air, and her sass and comedy is definitely something we need to see more of.

Although the story is based on the eponymous short story by Neil Gaiman, the plot of the short story is used as a basis for a filled out love story but Philippa Goslett and Mitchell (who also acted as screenwriter on the movie) create a story of love, acceptance, and what it means to conform and have definitely created the perfect movie for the disenchanted in a world filled of hate, intolerance and Brexit.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties will make you laugh and cry in equal measures, and there is something in the movie for everyone, and I will admit to laughing harder than most at the previous career of Enn’s mum (played by Joanna Scanlon).

The movie is as visually stunning as one would have expected from Mitchell, and the costumes by Oscar winner Sandy Powell help to create the jarring world of the humans and the aliens, and how each alien colony has a very different look and this helps create the identity of the creatures.  The party scenes within the alien house are an assault on the senses but one that you would happily repeat time and time again.

The movie has been described as a “punk rock Romeo and Juliet” however audiences are left with a sense of hope thanks to the final scene which acts as a nod towards Gaiman and also leaves us realising that happiness is always possible sometimes it is just a matter of waiting. The movie also teaches us that being cool isn’t as important as being true to yourself, and that is definitely a message we need during these difficult and uncertain times.

All in all, the movie is a wonderful return to the big screen for director Mitchell and one can only hope that the movie is given the opportunity to be seen by as many people as possible when it is released in 2018.

Kirsty Wallace
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