How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
How to Talk to Girls at Parties Movie Poster Image
Aliens, sex, and punk in offbeat potential cult classic.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 102 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie deals a little bit with the do-it-yourself punk ethos, championing the idea of simply making things/art without worrying about permission or whether many people will see it. Later, a character makes a very tough decision, choosing what's right over what she actually wants.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters are outsiders who sometimes don't behave well and sometimes aren't even entirely likable, but they have good intentions.

Violence

Violent dancing at a punk show; punk mauls an audience member. Some blood shown. Vomiting. Some scary, nightmare-type imagery.

Sex

Very mature sexual content includes unusual "alien" sex scenes; kissing; tentative, tender, sensual touching between a young man and woman; and nude drawings. Also lots of graphic sex talk.

Language

Several uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "ass," "piss," "butt," "gash."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen drinking in more than one instance. Smoking. Bong shown in background/drug references.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that How to Talk to Girls at Parties is a sci-fi punk-rock movie based on a short story by Neil Gaiman -- but this is no MirrorMask, Stardust, or Coraline. Coming from the maker of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, this film is very mature, with strong sex talk, unusual "alien" sex scenes, kissing, nude drawings, and a young man and woman tenderly touching each other's skin. There's also violent dancing and strong physical contact at a punk show, some blood, and scary/nightmarish imagery. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more. Teens drink beer on more than one occasion; smoking is also shown, and there are references to drugs. It won't be for everyone, but it could be a cult classic in the making.

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What's the story?

In HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES, it's 1977 in the South of London, and young punks Enn (Alex Sharp), Vic (A.J. Lewis), and John (Ethan Lawrence) are headed to a party. Vic has no trouble talking to girls, and he tries to convince the slightly more reticent Enn to be more outgoing. Although they ultimately end up at the wrong party, they decide to stay. The people there are unusual, perhaps even alien, listening to strange music and dancing strange dances. Vic has a very unsettling encounter that upsets him greatly, but Enn meets the pretty Zan (Elle Fanning). Even though it seems to upset her people, Zan leaves with Enn, full of curiosity about his life and his world. They meet punk godmother Queen Boadicea (Nicole Kidman) and attend -- and perform at -- a punk show. But eventually Zan must make a tough decision.

Is it any good?

This punk sci-fi movie suffers a bit from stretching a short story to feature length, and it sometimes has a queasy quality, but otherwise it has everything it needs to become a cult classic. Based on a wonderful 2006 short story by Neil Gaiman, How to Talk to Girls at Parties is quite different from other works based on Gaiman stories (including MirrorMask, Stardust, and Coraline) in that it's more mature -- and much weirder. But when it focuses on Enn as a regular, confused kid who's trying to figure things out through art and music, it sparks to life.

Director John Cameron Mitchell, who made the now-cult-classic Hedwig and the Angry Inch, brings his unique, experimental touches to the movie, with unusual rock-'n'-roll fantasy sequences and more offbeat sexuality. The through line of the longer, main story doesn't always click -- it sometimes lacks drive -- but the wild, bizarre images that support it are always fascinating, from the aliens' costumes and odd grasp of language to the breathless world of punk rock music. Sometimes these scenes can make you feel a bit trippy, but -- like somewhat similar cult classics The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Repo Man, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Hedwig itself -- it's all in the name of thinking outside the box.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how How to Talk to Girls at Parties portrays sex. Is it meant to be exciting? How much is shown, and how much is implied?

  • How much violence is shown? How is violence associated with punk rock music?

  • How is drinking depicted? Is teen drinking glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

Movie details

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