One thing is clear throughout How To Talk To Girls At Parties: the cast and crew had an absolute blast making it. It’s just a shame that the filmmakers failed to allow the audience into the fun.
It all starts with such kinetic promise. An opening swirl of colourful CGI shoots us into punk-infused 1977 Croydon. Shuttered frames and hand-scrawled titles inject the film with an infectious, irresistible energy. This is where the fun begins and ends.
It takes a work of grandeur to feast upon multiple tonal cakes, and HTTTGAP is nowhere near that level. Is it a romance? Is it a thriller? Is it a sci-fi / social commentary blend? It’s simultaneously all, and none, of them. It’s almost irritatingly incompetent at sticking to its own rules. Largely hindered by a strange, sagging, heavy middle act – likely due to the limited source material of Gaiman’s original 18 page manuscript – the film never recovers.
There are weird decisions made throughout too. A David Bowie-in-Labyrinth inspired turn from Kidman is an odd distraction that’s not all that welcome. The CGI is continuously poor to the point of questionable completion. Even with the film’s conclusion, none of the secondary characters are given time to shine or add anything of note to the plot.
Thank the heavens for Fanning and Sharp. Fanning always holds your attention, maintaining the perfect balance of weird and watchable. Sharp is a revelation, bursting with a shy charm and an inner fire; it’s obvious that this film is a springboard for bigger and better projects for the 29-year-old. Without these two, the film would be disastrous.
HTTTGAP has a heart to it, but that can only take you so far. Messy, sluggish and downright frustrating, here’s to the next projects of Mitchell, Fanning and Sharp.
CAST: Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp, Ruth Wilson, Matt Lucas
DIRECTOR: John Cameron Mitchell
WRITERS: Philippa Goslett (screenplay by), John Cameron Mitchell (screenplay by), Neil Gaiman (based on the short story by)
SYNOPSIS: Hearing the local punk Queen Boadicea (Kidman) is throwing a party, Enn (Sharp) crashes the fun and discovers every horny boy’s dream; gorgeous foreign exchange students. When he meets the enigmatic Zan (Fanning), it’s lust at first sight. But these girls have come a lot further than America…