Tuesday, July 31, 2018

In short: How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017)

As most of us know, the best way to adapt a tiny short story into a full length movie is to use a couple sentences and/or ideas and go one’s own way from there. At least it worked out for John Cameron Mitchell when adapting the titular Neil Gaiman story, taking place in 70s Croydon, after punk broke out.

At first, the whole thing feels and looks a bit like your local youth theatre group and their jazz dance friends trying to do “weird”, but the farther away the film gets from the titular party, the more would-be weird turns into high strangeness, ideas that shouldn’t work at all starting to feel like masterstrokes, or like that Doctor Who episode you once dreamed up after eating a cake of dubious provenance. There’s a musical number that will – depending on one’s temperament – either have one grinning with joy about its cleverness and the pointed way it is staged or throwing one’s hands up in disgust while mumbling something about pretentions, but I’d argue that if your reaction is the latter, it’s not the film’s fault, or rather that this is most definitely not a film made for you (which is perfectly alright, of course). I was grinning, obviously, somewhat enchanted by how the film uses the impetus of punk without aiming for historical correctness,  which would be very much not punk anyway, but having its own contemporary view on people and things. It’s also a much better film about male (and alien, I suppose) coming of age than most films of that particular genre, because it sees the territory of maleness as pleasantly broad and inclusive.

For a film directed by a guy born in Texas, How to Talk’s weirdness has a surprisingly – and absolutely appropriate - British vibe, lacking the tourist-y aspects one might fear, earning stuff like a “Doctor Who but as a fever dream” comparison.

Also, if you always assumed that Elle Fanning’s an alien, this will be another FACT to build your conspiracy theories on. Herein is also continuing proof that Nicole Kidman is willing to do just about everything if it is interesting, no matter if it’s a good career move, and will bring small moments of humanity to characters who wildly overact through their lives. And who doesn’t want to see house favourite Ruth Wilson be a weird alien?

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