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REVIEW: How To Talk To Girls At Parties

By Eric Hillis,

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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2018 International Film Festival Brings 4 Award Winning Foreign Films To Vineland
(VINELAND, NJ) -- Enjoy four highly-acclaimed award-winning recent foreign films representing diverse cultures at the 2018 International Film Festival, starting Monday, November 26, at the Levoy Theatre, 126-130 N. High St., Millville, NJ. The four films—A Fantastic Woman, The Interpreter, 1945, and Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me—will introduce the theatergoer to the universality of themes that are common to Jewish and other international themes. They are representative of the finest of today’s international cinematographic art.
John T. LaBarbera Presents Charlie Chaplin's “The Immigrant” with New Original Score
(TEANECK, NJ) -- Performer, composer, and author John T. LaBarbera performs his original score for Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant at the Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck on October 28 at 4:00pm. LaBarbera’s score creates an emotional atmosphere through the melodic themes that are reminiscent of the Italian immigrant music published during the early 20th century. Chaplin’s 1917 comedy about his own experiences as an immigrant draws on parallels of the popular songs of Tin Pan Alley which inform LaBarbera’s composition, highlighting the comedic and romantic aspects of the film through ragtime style, slapstick references, and melodic leitmotif that adorn the film’s narrative.
NJSO presents Star Wars: A New Hope in concert on Thanksgiving weekend
(NEWARK, NJ) --The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presents screenings of the complete film Star Wars: A New Hope with Oscar-winning composer John Williams’ musical scores performed live on Thanksgiving weekend, November 23–25. Performances take place in Red Bank, Newark, and New Brunswick.
East Lynne Theater Company presents "Poe" and "Dr. Jekyll"
(CAPE MAY, NJ) -- The award-winning Equity professional East Lynne Theater Company presents two events in time for Halloween: "Poe by Candlelight" on Saturday, October 20 at 8:00pm and the classic silent thriller, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," accompanied by Wayne Zimmerman on the organ, on Sunday, October 21 at 7:30pm, both at The First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes Street in Cape May, where the theater is in residence.
Basie Center Celebrates Dia De Los Muertos With "Coco" Benefit Screening And Community Ofrenda
(RED BANK, NJ) -- The nonprofit Count Basie Center for the Arts will present a big-screen showing of Disney’s Coco as part of its annual celebration of Dia de los Muertos, sponsored by Basie’s partner program Calpulli Mexican Dance Company. The screening, which takes place on Saturday, November 3 at 11:00am, will also serve as a fundraiser for the Red Bank Borough School District, which will receive half of all tickets sold.

REVIEW: "Cold War"
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 viewing 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.
Baba Babee Skazala
Among the many intriguing films being screened at New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018, one title immediately caught our eye — Baba Babee Skazala: Grandmother Told Grandmother.  
NJ Film Fest Preview: October 2018
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 runs from September 14 to October 26 on the Rutgers University Campus in New Brunswick, NJ. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will feature over 30 film screenings.  
REVIEW: "Black 47"
In a year that has offered cinemagoers culturally distinctive takes on the western genre from countries as disparate as Australia (Sweet Country), Indonesia (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts) and South Africa (Five Fingers for Marseille), it’s no surprise to find Irish cinema adopting the tropes of that most traditionally American of genres.
Michael Gallagher’s terrific comedy Funny Story Premiere’s at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, September 14!
Michael Gallagher’s terrific feature Funny Story Premiere’s at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, September 14!

Event calendar
Wednesday, Oct 17, 2018


DON FELDER @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

The Tenors: Fan Favorites Tour @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 7:30pm

An Evening with Emily Saliers @ Pollak Theatre, West Long Branch - 7:30pm


The Shuck @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

The Color Purple @ Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn - 7:30pm

Auditions: A Charlie Brown Christmas @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 7:00pm


So You Think You Can Dance Live! 2018 @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:00pm

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