Reel Shorts | How to Talk to Girls At Parties

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

A little known short story by Neil Gaiman comes to life in the indie comedy romance, How To Talk To Girls At Parties.

England 1977. The Queen is celebrating her 25th anniversary but more importantly, it’s the height of the punk music era and Enn (Alex Sharp) is living right in the middle of it. One night after a show at the “club” run by Queen Boadicea (Nicole Kidman), Enn and his friends get lost going to the after party. They stumble across another stranger and much different party. The party is full of gorgeous looking exchange students in rubber looking outfits dancing to indescribable music. Through all the party, Enn sees Zan (Elle Fanning) and immediately falls for her. Zan leaves the exchange group with Enn in order to “experience the punk.” During their exploits, Enn uncovers the nature of Zan’s exchange group and quickly discovers that Zan is truly out of this world.

How To Talk To Girls At Parties is directed by John Cameron Mitchell (Shortbus, Hedwig, and the Angry Inch) and the screenplay is also co-written by Mitchell. While Mitchell has been involved in some television work in recent years, How is his latest foray into the realm of the feature film. Unfortunately, this work is showing a good amount of ring rust. Visually, the opening montage effectively grabs the helter-skelter look and feel of the punk era but soon after loses that identity. At times the movie plays more like a punk rock horror movie than a rom-com.

Even worse though is the writing. The movie is hard to follow at best even during the most engaging scenes and boring during others. Mitchell needs to decide on which genre this movie is going to be. Is it science-fiction? Is it horror? Is it a rom-com? Rocking, coming-of-age tale? Instead, he throws elements of all these genres into this one film and it becomes a jack-of-all-trades failure. The directorial effort in this movie is nowhere near the effort Mitchell put forth in his last film Rabbit Hole where he also worked with Nicole Kidman.

The best part of the movie is hearing the old punk classics. Hearing The Velvet Underground, The Clash (briefly) provide an emotional anchor for the movie and some of the music of The Dyschords (a band created for the movie) tie onto the anchor. However, the climactic song of the movie “Eat Me Alive” breaks the chain of punk authenticity created previously in the film. Mitchell is credited as being the writer for a number of the songs and one wonders if he made the film just to showcase his music.

Rated R for language throughout, sexual content, some drug use and nudity, How To Talk To Girls At Parties is flailing mess of a movie. It never settles on the story it wants to tell and just throws too many things on the screen. In the end, it is just too much to see, so close your eyes.

Grade D-