If the central party in John Cameron Mitchell's How To Talk To Girls At Parties was a real event, it would be talked about in all of the alt-zines in the world. It is too bad the same thing cannot be said about the film itself. Sexual experiments, weird tai chi style dancing and punk rock all are featured in the glorious first thirty minutes here but it soon becomes clear the party has no host as the film meanders nowhere in particular for another hour.
Set in 1977 in South London, the film is based on a short story by Neil Gaiman. The original story is short and brief and ends as Enn (Alex Sharp) meets and struggles to talk to Zan. You can feel it while watching the film. Gaiman's tale has a narrow aim, to address that for some men talking to women is as difficult as talking to an alien. Mitchell and Philippa Goslett struggle to expand the story into a 100-minute film.
Enn fares better here with Zan and the two spend about 48 hours together falling in love in the turmoil of Zan's alien family had plans to exit earth and eat their young. The third act of this film has to cram so much exposition in it to support the extension of the story. It ends up robbing the finale of any big swell of emotion because you will be too confused about the inner workings of a handful of alien species.
What does come out clean from the film is the talent and chemistry of its two leads. Sharp is particularly charming as a punk with a big heart and Fanning continues to excel at odd characters with budding sexuality. She completely sells a character that is an alien who begins to want to experience more of Earth, like punk music and love. In a more focused film, these two would carry the film on sheer charisma. How To Talk To Girls At Parties's major problem is that it doesn't know what it wants to be about. The scattershot storytelling is exhausting.
Scenes run the gamut of the bizarre from Nicole Kidman dressed like David Bowie in Labrynth leading Enn and Zan to front a punk band named the Dyschords to different alien species all dressed in latex trying to have anal sex with one of Enn's pals. The film has tons of energy but its erratic approach to storytelling robs the film of momentum and the two terrific leads get lost in the murk.