Film Review – ‘How To Talk To Girls At Parties’ (2018)

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Release date: OUT NOW on DVD/Download
Rating: [rating=4]

While not of universal appeal, HTTTGAP is undoubtedly a genre-busting, irreverent work of filmmaking, at once a daring fantasy, a passionate love letter to punk culture and a tale of star-crossed lovers from different worlds – literally.

Adapted from the work of acclaimed story giant Neil Gaiman (Coraline, American Gods) and directed by the much-loved cult director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Itch, Shortbus), HTTTGAP is 90 minutes of hilarious anarchy, mayhem and otherworldly antics – but it’s also a delicate coming-of-age story, complete with a ‘Romeo and Juliet’-style love story on an intergalactic scale.

Set in 1970s London, an eccentric alien (Zan, played by Elle Fanning) touches down in Croydon at the height of punk’s popularity. It’s there that she encounters the loveable oddball Enn (Alex Sharp), and becomes enamoured with his love of everything punk. Before long she’s swept into his world of riotous gigs and carefree adventure. But when her obligations to her alien people clash with her new life, Enn and Zan find themselves fighting to hold on to everything they hold dear – and most of all, each other.

If there’s one thing HTTTGAP does throughout, it’s subverting expectations. What could have been little more than a supernatural American Pie in other hands is actually a compelling rollercoaster ride in John Cameron Mitchell’s. The story takes frequent intriguing turns as the ripple effects of Enn and Zan’s relationship spreads until it impacts all the other characters in the film, not least the larger-than-life punk queen Boadicea (a scene-stealing Nicole Kidman), the sharp-tongued, fiery club owner/talent scout who becomes something of an unlikely surrogate mother once things get going. In fact, the world of HTTTGAP is peopled with countless intriguing, off-the-wall personalities. Much like its teenage leads the film bounds from one bizarre encounter involving these characters to another with ceaseless energy, sometimes with such dizzying speed that it’s hard to keep up.

The Enn/Zan love story stands out from similar territory in other YA fare like The Hunger Games or Divergent – everything about them encapsulates the awkwardness and terror of adolescent romance, with huge dollops of comedy for good measure. Fanning’s Zan in particular is like Luna Lovegood on bath salts, a bitingly honest rule-breaker who flits from zany to infantile at the drop of a hat. It’s to Fanning’s credit that despite such extremes Zan always feels utterly believable as a heroine battling at every opportunity against the ‘alien conformity’ being forced on her.

This total disregard for convention is in every frame of the film, up to and including its quirky, adrenaline-filled finale, which is delightfully camp but also rather touching. HTTTGAP isn’t afraid to laugh at itself, up to and including a few comical nods that eagle-eyed Gaiman fans will love.

However, it is the kind of film that viewers will likely either adore or hate, as its constant genre-hopping and occasional melodrama may not appeal to everyone. It’s unlikely to be an awards darling, but with its spirit of defiance, it probably isn’t trying to be. Instead, HTTTGAP is a cult film in the making, an unashamed love story that proves there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit strange.

The special features on offer may not be the smorgasbord of geekdom some fans may be expecting, but there’s still some entertaining stuff on offer. There are the usual deleted scenes, but the real highlights are the extensive, insightful interviews on the disc from cast and crew, including John Cameron Mitchell and Neil Gaiman.

Alex Straker

Music, Romance | UK, 2017 | 15 | 3rd September 2018 (UK) | Studiocanal | Blu-ray, DVD | Dir.John Cameron Mitchell | Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson, Alex Sharp, Matt Lucas