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How To Talk To Girls At Parties’ Gives Alien Spin To Teen Coming Of Age Story

New film from John Cameron Mitchell plays at Digital Gym Cinema

Photo caption:

Photo credit: A24

Zan (Elle Fanning) and Enn (Alex Sharp) share a moment onstage in John Cameron Mitchell's "How To Talk To Girls At Parties."

Companion viewing

"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (2001)

"Shortbus" (2006)

"Neon Demon" (2016)

Filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell scored a cult hit with his first film "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." Now he's back with "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" playing at Digital Gym Cinema.

As with "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," John Cameron Mitchell’s "How to Talk To Girls at Parties" combines youth, music and rebellion … but this time with aliens.

It’s London in the 1970s, and nothing symbolizes teen revolt more than punk music. Enn (Alex Sharp) and his two friends aspire to punk stardom but settle for just being fans that publish their own 'zine. One night they manage to get into what they think is an exclusive party. Once they're in, though, they discover something: a bizarre gathering of teenagers who seem like they are part of some weird cult. They're not. They are, however, from another planet.

The shy Enn finds an immediate attraction to one of these aliens, Zan (Elle Fanning). Turns out that even alien teens go through the same feelings of angst, rebellion and search for identity that earth kids go through. And punk proves the perfect outlet for the intergalactic traveler who’s fed up with being a passive observer.

"How to Talk to Girls" refreshes the usual teen movie with some wild costumes and production design. Mitchell, adapting a short story by Neil Gaiman, gives us a visually appealing film just as he did with "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." His stylish flair makes "How to Talk to Girls" an engaging sci-fi and coming of age mashup.

But in the end neither he nor Gaiman find anything particularly new to say about the trials and tribulations of growing up. With "Hedwig," which was based on Mitchell's own play, was a fictional tale but inspired by things from Mitchell's own life so it felt very personal and vivid. But "How To Talk To Girls," despite many trippy and out-of-this-world elements, serves up a much more generic story.

"How To Talk To Girls" (rated R for language throughout, sexual content, some drug use and nudity) serves up a fun, occasionally touching film that shows Mitchell has style to burn and a compassionate sensibility. It doesn’t feel as clever as "Hedwig," but at least it strives for originality in its approach.

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Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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