“How to Talk to Girls at Parties”
A Very Gay Non-Gay Movie
Set in London, 1977, Enn (Alex Sharp) is a shy suburban teenager who sneaks out to after-hours punk parties. One night, Enn and his friends meet some teens that seem like they’re from another planet; in fact, they are from another planet and have come to Earth to complete a mysterious rite of passage. Enn falls for beautiful alien Zan (Elle Fanning) and sets off on an adventure that will test the limits of their love. The movie is directed and co written by John Cameron Mitchell (“Shortbus” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”). Though it may not seem like a gay movie at first, there is a whole lot of allegory and “The Advocate” called the movie “John Cameron Mitchell’s queerest work yet.”
Three teenagers are out to make mischief in Croydon, a suburb of London. They don’t know what they are doing buts it’s loud, disruptive, dangerously disorganized. The energy is electric. In a club, a basement where sounds blast into your brain, the boys bounce and squeal with the crowd. Out in the street they hear different, almost melodic, music coming from a house near by. They investigate and talk their way into a ritualistic after party where performers are dressed in vinyl and behave like members of a Californian cult.
There Enn meets Zan, a blonde innocent with whom he connects in some ethereal way. He is a virgin and his feelings for Zan have a purity that breaks through the cynical shell into a heartscape of undiscovered emotion. Nicole Kidman is there as a rock grandmother, dressed by Ziggy Stardust, as are Matt Lucas as a cult enforcer and Ruth Wilson as weird sex on legs. Later, when the credits roll, we realize that these Americans are aliens. It’s the Queen’s jubilee in London and the three mates on their pedal bike are blown away by the visitors from Planet Cult.
Enn talks of anarchy and doing better than his parents’ generation. When the boys alight at a rundown mansion for the gig’s afterparty, things take a turn. The interior is furnished with nightmarish installation art. Their hosts are aliens they begin to chant in a cultish choir lulling everyone into a euphoric stupor. We are compelled by an undercooked love story, and troubled by unexplained cosmic politics.
As Zan attempts to compile life experiences to add to her colony’s hive mind, romance, apparently, blossoms. There are a handful of half-formed ideas: parents eating their young; rebellion (of course); going after new experiences; and crossing the political gulf. These stray strands become lost and we become troubled by unexplained cosmic politics, and convinced of the liberating shiver of punk energy.
The film’s tagline is “Talk to the girl. Save the world,” but at no point does Earth’s fate hang in the balance, and talking to Zan is no great challenge for anyone. As far as intergalactic romance and the worrisome generational divide goes, I really do not have an idea of what is going on here. We have undeveloped themes and ideas, a mess of incongruent scenes, and, when its over, we have a sense of relief. I was completely disappointed.