Monday, June 04, 2018

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Three midnight movies I wanted to catch this weekend, two slots, and I was kind of zonked by eleven on Friday, so I missed Die Hard at the Somerville or this one on its first night at the Coolidge. Which meant, when I went to see it on Saturday, I got a double-take from Nancy when she saw I was seeing this rather than Big Trouble in Little China. Which, I'll admit, is more my usual speed, but sometimes you go for the thing that is only going to be on the big screen for a couple of nights versus the thing that does play somewhere or another every few years.

Not necessarily the greatest decision, although I'm glad to have seen How to Talk to Girls. I may want to dig out the copy of the graphic novel Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon did based on the same story, though, just to see how different they are - I suspect the comic was less music-oriented, though maybe the story was. Of course, not being a big Neil Gaiman fan, I suspect I was one of relatively few buying it as a "Moon/Ba" book rather than a Gaiman one.

It was, unfortunately, juuuust long enough to keep me from catching the last 66 bus, and I suspect I should have walked the other direction to find a taxi stand, because I wound up walking through Allston, past the house I lived in a couple years ago, and into Harvard Square, which took about forty-five minutes. Probably could have made it home on foot in another half hour, but ten bucks to not do that sounded pretty good at that point. The cab driver initially thought I had seen something called "How to Attack Girls After Parties", and must have thought me a monster for being into something like that.

That got me home at 3am, and useless for all of Sunday. I've got to be honest, I might be getting a little too old for this. Not sure how I'll keep up a Fantasia schedule next month, although I'll certainly try.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 2/3 June 2018 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (first-run/after midnite, DCP)

Neil Gaiman's gift as a writer is that he can merge the fantastic with a sense of human isolation and, if the audience is receptive to that idea, make a person feel connected to the travails of a lonely god; director John Cameron Mitchell has shown a similar ability to connect with people at the margins. Mitchell adapting a Gaiman story sounds like it should be perfect, but How to Talk to Girls at Parties often comes across as having their talents a bit out of sync. Not enough to backfire, but the film only comes fully to life in its strangest moments.

There's a moment toward the end when Mitchell and company seem to show that, as local punk icon Queen Boadicea (Nicole Kidman) hears someone start to talk about wanting to buck the system and say something with music and makes it clear that she's heard this story a lot. It's not a bad story, but there's a certain irony to how, in the 40 years since this film's 1977 setting, punk as rebellion has been digested and normalized, with earnest Henry "Enn" (Alex Sharp), nerdy-and-probably-more-new-wave-than-punk John (Ethan Lawrence), and pugnacious Vic (A.J. Lewis) needing a lot more than their taste in music and decent performances to stand out. It's very familiar material, whether you like the scene or see movies like this as being about the one person in it who is not completely obnoxious.

That's why the three taking a wrong turn and ending up at something very different from the after-party they had intended to visit winds up being so much fun - these guys having absolutely no idea how to react to an abandoned house full of (mostly) young people in bright, color-coded outfits, doing bizarre dances to atonal music, and apparently having a completely different cultural frame of reference puts the punks on their back foot. It's tremendously funny - Mitchell throws trippy visuals, physical comedy, and a bunch of what sounds like utter nonsense delivered with complete conviction at the audience in a way that's just rapid-fire enough to ensure they laugh at every particular bit - but a huge part of the gag is seeing the rebels painted as the conventional ones. Yes, Enn winds up befriending Zan (Elle Fanning), who is feeling the need for her own sort of rebellion, but that most obviously leads to a bunch of jokes about how Enn, Vic, and John just think Zan and her housemates are Americans, as opposed to extraterrestrial bacteria colonies that have agglomerated into the forms of human beings.

Full review on EFC

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