How To Talk To Girls At Parties is very flawed, but it’s a grower, and I ended up liking it. Hedwig creator John Cameron Mitchell brought it to the screen, and it’s based on a very autobiographical Neil Gaiman short story. It’s science fiction comedy punk movie, with the unfortunate problem that they didn’t get the rights to many of the classic songs of the era. Mitchell definitely needed a better music director but does what he can with some tracks from the DIY legends The Homosexuals.
The main character is Enn, played by Alex Sharp, is clearly Gaiman himself. On the way back from a punk gig he and his friends meet a group of strange people who they think are from California but they’re actually from outer space. Enn falls in love with Zan, an alien played by Elle Fanning, and the rest is a silly film that’s very reminiscent of (but not as weird as) Liquid Sky. It’s all set in Croydon, where Gaiman went to secondary school, but it was actually shot in Sheffield because hipster Croydon is now much too posh.
It’s a fun movie but certain things about it drive me crazy. The music licensing issue means they had to write their own, which kind of works (the biggest song they could get was the Damned’s New Rose). No one had a mohawk in the UK in ’77, but of course they crop up here. They go to a record shop, and you can see recent LPs—as a record collector, that really rubbed me the wrong way. Nicole Kidman appears, looking like she stepped out of a fancy dress party that she attended as David Bowie’s Goblin King with a punk makeover, and with one of the worst “Cockney” accents since Dick van Dyke. But I’ll give her props, because at this point in her career Kidman doesn’t have to care and can do all the crazy movies she likes. Her character is sort of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren rolled into one.
The first time I tried to watch it, I couldn’t get past the first 40 minutes, but Dan Waters of Heathers fame convinced me to give it a second try—and he was right. The relationship between the leads works, and as a sort of biopic of Neil Gaiman, it’s not bad. Costumes were by Sandy Powell, one of the best.
The disk includes deleted scenes, and a bunch of cast and crew interviews. There’s also a preview trailer for Under the Skin, which would make a great British alien invasion double bill with How To Talk To Girls At Parties.