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REVIEW: How To Talk To Girls At Parties

By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com

originally published: 05/26/2018

REVIEW: How To Talk To Girls At Parties

‘Punk’s not dead, it just smells that way!” So goes the old joke at the expense of that short-lived but impactful cultural movement that captured the imaginations of teenagers in the New York and London of 1977. Fifteen minutes into John Cameron Mitchell’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story we begin to get a whiff as pungent as the rotting corpse of Sid Vicious. This, folks, is a stinker!

Mitchell takes us back to the British capital in the summer of ‘77, one of those culturally pivotal years, much like 1963, when change is in the air and rubbish lies in the streets. Enn (Alex Sharp) is a snotty-nosed punk who hangs out with his obnoxious mates, penning a punk fanzine, attending sweaty gigs in basements, and of course, attempting and failing to get laid.

Enn’s luck changes when he finds himself at a party in a large squat that houses a mysterious tribe of latex garbed aliens, whom the lads dismiss as being from California due to their propensity for yoga and strange mantra warbling. One of the aliens, Zan, takes the form of a teenage girl (Elle Fanning), and wouldn’t you know, grubby little Enn is immediately smitten. Zan runs away from her fellow aliens and begins to explore Earth, or at least the town of Croydon, with the obliging Enn.

Mitchell came to prominence in the ‘90s with his stage musical and subsequent film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and HTTTGAP plays largely like a musical that someone has edited out all the song and dance numbers. Characters often line up as though they’re about to break into a choreographed routine, and an embracing of the inherent campness of the musical genre would have made the cloying tweeness of Mitchell’s film somewhat more bearable.

Like a Monty Python skit that’s far too worried about ensuring the audience gets the joke, Mitchell’s take on Gaiman’s story goes out of its way to be odd, but in the most cynical and manufactured of fashion. “Isn’t this all just absolutely crazy?” the film practically screams in our ears at intervals. Err, no actually - it’s rather dull. Despite its barrage of color and microwavable weirdness, it’s a boil-in-the-bag cult movie with a cardboard aftertaste.



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Mitchell’s cult clout has enabled him to rope in Hollywood stars of the magnitude of Fanning and Nicole Kidman, who delivers arguably the most embarrassing performance of her career as an aging punk queen - I’m not sure how you can be an aging punk in 1977, when the movement is barely a year old, but let’s not quibble. Elsewhere Ruth Wilson plays a rubberclad alien with an expression on her face that suggests she wants to bludgeon her agent.

Period recreation isn’t exactly HTTTGAP’s saving grace either, with very middle class actors unconvincing as working class oiks and the film taking place in an urban London so underpopulated it resembles the set of The Omega Man (in reality, the streets of 1977 London probably had more in common with Soylent Green).

REVIEW: How To Talk To Girls At Parties

What’s most irritating about Mitchell’s film is how it arrogantly expects us to embrace and root for its teenage male protagonist, simply because he’s a bit misunderstood and dopey eyed. Fanning’s innocent extra terrestrial is another example of the tired ‘born sexy yesterday’ trope, an Encino Man who’s willing to indulge in snogging and hand jobs. Were the teenage girls of ‘70s London so off-putting that an alien is the better option for a young man looking for love and a fumble?

How To Talk To Girls At Parties - 1  star out of 5

Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell; Starring: Alex Sharp, Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson





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UCPAC Presents Three Classic 80s Films on 35mm Film
 (RAHWAY, NJ) -- A series of three classic films is being presented on 35mm film at Union County Performing Arts Center’s Main Stage theater. All viewings cost a $5 admission ticket that includes a 30 minute pre-show on the theater’s historic "Biggest Little Wurlitzer" organ and free popcorn along with the film screening. The films include The Breakfast Club (January 25), Pretty Woman (February 15), and The Karate Kid (March 8).
Hopewell Theater Hosts Special Valentine's Screening of "Casablanca" With Supper
(HOPEWELL, NJ) -- Hopewell Theater will host a special “date night” celebration of Valentine’s Day with a screening of the classic romance film Casablanca paired with an optional Moroccan supper on Valentine's Day, Thursday, February 14. An undisputed masterpiece and perhaps Hollywood's quintessential statement on love and romance, Casablanca has only improved with age, boasting career-defining performances from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies, presents the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 which marks the festival's 37th Anniversary.  The Festival will take place between January 25 and March 1, 2019. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 will feature over 35 film screenings. 
NJPAC Presents Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert With The NJSO
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The Harry Potter Film Concert Series returns to New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert, on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm. See the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra perform the magical score live while the entire film plays in high-definition on a 40-foot screen.


REVIEW: "If Beale Street Could Talk"
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Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help view the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.
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Event calendar
Sunday, Jan 20, 2019


MUSIC

The Brook Orchestra presents Fire & Ice @ Brook Arts Center, Bound Brook - 3:00pm

Bay Atlantic Symphony: Mozart & Verdi @ Stockton Performing Arts Center (StocktonPAC) in Galloway, Galloway - 2:00pm

Scott Wolfson & Other Heroes @ Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme, Succasunna - 4:00pm


THEATRE

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 2:00pm

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 2:00pm

Auditions: Born Yesterday @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 6:30pm







KIDS

American Girl Live @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 1:00pm


MISC

WWE Superstar Braun Strowman @ iPlay America, Freehold - 11:00am

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