How to Talk to Girls at Parties

 

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Aliens get more than they bargained for when they visit Croydon in this bizarre piece of retro-amateur 
chic.

 

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

A foreign tongue: Alex Sharp and Elle Fanning 

 

Set in 1977 – the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee – this adaptation of the short story by Neil Gaiman celebrates punk, Croydon and what it means to be English. Taking a leaf out of the book of Joe Cornish’s hugely entertaining Attack the Block (2011), the film mixes London street cred and alien infiltration with a retro-amateur chic. As in the earlier film, Sarf London is visited by extraterrestrials who find that the locals are not so easily accommodated. Here, the aliens are given more screen time and are a bizarre species, having human form and a liking for Spandex and anal imposition. They don’t have long to complete their mission – just 48 hours – before setting off to another corner of the universe.

 

Our hero is ‘Enn’ (Alex Sharp), a young punk who still lives at home with his mum and longs for a decent rave. He hangs out with his mates John (Ethan Lawrence, a young James Corden type) and Vic (A.J. Lewis, a young Rik Mayall), who crash what they believe to be a groovy party at a house on the other side of the park. It’s actually a temporary rendezvous for the cosmic tourists, who are in the midst of an outré rites of passage. However, one of their number, the curious and innocent Zan (Elle Fanning), takes a liking to Enn and is given a “dispensation” to spend time with him. Enn has no idea that she’s not human and just sees an opportunity to get his leg over. Of course, he gets more than he bargained for…

 

While there are a number of incidental pleasures, the film feels strangely out of time. It is both futuristic and antiquated, the sort of thing Julien Temple might have knocked out after a bad trip. At its worst, it feels like a rejected episode of The Young Ones, at its best a free-spirited romp down memory lane. Fans of Matt Lucas might enjoy the sight of him in Lycra and a fright wig, but it’s an acquired taste. And then there’s Nicole Kidman. It’s a mystery to know what drew her to this project, other than the chance to flex yet another accent in her cosmopolitan repertoire. She plays a punk called Boadicea and gets to utter such gems as, “Shut yer gaping gob!” Poor Elle Fanning has even more demanded of her, and it’s not her most dignified appearance on film. She’s pictured on the loo “excreting pancakes,” encourages the erogenous attention to her armpits and has a habit of vomiting into people’s mouths. However, the American actress enters into the spirit of the thing with an admirable joie de vivre. Of course, the film has all the makings of a cult classic, if you like that sort of thing.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp, Ruth Wilson, Matt Lucas, Nicole Kidman, A.J. Lewis, Ethan Lawrence, Joanna Scanlan, Tom Brooke, Martin Tomlinson, Bill Milner, Stephen Campbell Moore.

 

Dir John Cameron Mitchell, Pro Iain Canning, Howard Gertler, John Cameron Mitchell and Emile Sherman, Screenplay Philippa Goslett and John Cameron Mitchell, Ph Frank G. DeMarco, Pro Des Helen Scott, Ed Brian A. Kates, Music Nico Muhly and Jamie Stewart, Costumes Sandy Powell.

 

HanWay Films/Little Punk/See-Saw Films-StudioCanal.

102 mins. UK/USA. 2017. Rel: 11 May 2018. Cert. 15.