We Found It On Streaming: HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES (2018)

Image via A24

You know the film. It’s a film you have never heard of. The cast might be composed of actors you know and love or complete unknowns. You stumble across it on streaming and wonder if it will be worth two hours of your time. This series will be devoted to reviewing films like these, the strange items that pop up when you are looking for a flick on the streaming service of your choice. This is “We Found It On Streaming”

Image via A24

FILM: How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Release Date: May 25, 2018

Run Time: 102 Minutes.

Streaming Service(s): Max

Rating: R for language throughout, sexual content, some drug use and nudity.

The two most important comic book writers to come out of the 1980s are Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. There is no need for debate, because that is a genuine fact. Both men revolutionized the comic book medium, have created stories that will be read and discussed by your children and your children’s children, and both have had their works adapted into other media, albeit with differing results.

Moore was first out of the gate in that regard, with adaptations of his From HellLeague of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta and Watchmen hitting the big screen, all in ways that Moore had little say in and would often anger and alienate him. They weren’t as good as the source material, either.

Moore might have won the sprint, but Gaiman won the marathon. We are now in the peak age of Neil Gaiman adaptations, with Sandman at Netflix, Good Omens at Amazon Prime, and the recently completed American Gods at Starz, all with Gaiman involved in the creative process and more fealty to the source material. And he has even hit the big screen, with a 2018 film adapted from a short story in his 2006 anthology Fragile ThingsHow to Talk to Girls at Parties. 

Image via A24

It’s 1977, and England is celebrating the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Well, not all of it. Enn (Alex Sharp) and his friends Vic (Abraham Lewis) and John (Ethan Lawrence) are ensconced in the punk subculture in the suburb of Croydon and could care less about the Queen. All they want to do is sneak into punk shows, sell their fanzines and meet girls to shag. Of the three, Enn is faring the worst in that regards. Terminally shy, cringingly awkward and paralyzingly respectful, he has a hard time talking to girls. He spends most of his time at house parties in the kitchen, talking to the host’s mother.

This all changes when a wrong turn on the way to an afterparty after a punk show leads the trio to a house party full of latex clad men and women, dancing to moody atmospheric music (“They must be from California,” John says). There Enn meets Zan (Elle Fanning), a young woman who is arguing with her parental unity Waldo (Tom Brooke) for more freedom. She then runs into Enn. He admires her rebellious spirit, she his free, anarchic spirit. Zan leaves with Enn who promises to show her “the punk.” They fall in love, and soon realize that both share the same “No Future” punk ethos, although for Zan the motto is far more literal–she is an alien whose time on Earth will come to an end in 48 hours.

Image via A24

If you hadn’t guessed, How to Talk to Girls at Parties is a weird film. But I think that it is also a beautiful and moving film, with a lot of humor and a lot of heart–once you get past anal probing scenes (I’m not joking). Director and cowriter John Cameron Mitchell and cowriter Phillipa Goslett have expanded Gaiman’s original story to create a vibrant and moving romance.

One of the things I was impressed the most with was how they set up the world of 1977 Croydon. I was all of five at the time the movie was set, and my exposure to punk rock came way after the style peaked, but the film makes me feel like I was right there living it with the characters. You get to understand the British punk scene and the alienation that fed into it. But you also experience the contradictions of it. Enn craves his independence but relies on money from his mother to go to shows. He hates conformity but has to wear a school uniform to class every day, albeit one festooned with pins from punk bands. He wants to be seen and heard, his fanzine to be read, but not so much that he’d be labeled as sellout.

Image via A24

With such a solid grounding in reality, you become more willing to accept the rather fantastic sci-fi elements of the film. There is a logic to the sci-fi stuff, but when the world it takes place in is so realisticlly rendered, you are more willing to accept the fantasy.

What also helps you buy in is the acting, which is phenomenal. I can’t say that I was all that familiar with Elle Fanning’s work before this. Yes, I have seen her in a number of things, but nothing resonated all that much. She resonated with me here big time. She absolutely inhabited the role, from her body language to her line delivery to the way she moved. This type of role is hard to pull off. Fanning did that and in spades. It’s not hyperbole to say it was an Oscar worthy performance. One that, unfortunately, was ignored by the Academy.

Alex Sharp also does a great job as well. His part might be easier to play that Fanning’s but he provides the right amount of charm, anger and awkwardness. Too many of any of those elements, and you might not have a character you’d want to root for. Sharp’s Enn is definitely a character you want to root for.

And there is a tangible chemistry between Sharp and Fanning. There would have to be because this is a Category 5 whirlwind romance, and without an obvious bond between the actors the romance, and therefore the whole movie, would fall apart.

Image via A24

Nicole Kidman is in this too but don’t go streaming it just to see her. Her role is a supporting part, probably a favor to her Rabbit Hole director Mitchell. But, as the maxim says, there are no small parts, only small actors. Kidman excels as Boadicea, a woman who was once the big part of the punk scene in London and now has become downgraded to a big part of the punk scene in Croydon. It is a role that mixed ego with angst, missing what was lost and hoping to recapture it. Kidman pretty much kills it every time she comes on screen.

I have a confession to make. I know this feature is supposed to be films I just recently stumbled on during my hunt of streaming. I stumbled upon this film on New Year’s Day of 2023. But it has stayed with me ever since. It has not been looked on favorably by other critics, and I just wanted to throw a little positivity its way. It has become one of my favorites. Hopefully, you can give it a chance.

Have you found a film on streaming that you’d like us to look at? Leave it in the comments and it might appear in a future installment of this feature. 

Avatar für Bill Gatevackes
About Bill Gatevackes 2029 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.
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