From kooky aesthetic choices to non sequitur plot twists, there’s a lot to unpack in John Cameron Mitchell’s punk-alien romance, How to Talk to Girls at Parties.
Based on Neil Gaiman’s short story of the same name, the film chronicles the burgeoning romance between Elle Fanning’s ethereally bizarre Zan and a horny, young punk boy named Enn (played by Alex Sharp). Zan, who is part of an alien tour group that eats its younger members, runs off with Enn and subsequently becomes immersed in the 1980s London punk scene, which culminates in a riotous warehouse performance where our two young lovers form a connection that transcends space and time.
A deliriously batshit movie that probably requires several watches to fully understand, we turned to director Mitchell to help explain a few of the most bizarre bits of the film. Read his breakdown, below.
How To Talk To Girls At Parties is in theaters May 25.
The Aliens’ “Human” Outfits
Can we just start by talking about the fact that all the aliens have to be dressed in these garish Union Jack ponchos and travel in a group whenever they go out amongst humans?
They're trying to blend in... because that’s what humans do, right? The flag outfits are very garish, but it's also taking place during the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, so the flag is everywhere. So Sandy Powell, who did the costumes, said, "Well, we don't have money for extra costumes for these aliens, so should they only have one alien outfit?" And I was like, "What about rain ponchos? I mean, it is England." And she's like, "Union Jack. British Flag." But what we ended up getting was an accidental Brexit metaphor, because there's a bunch of people walking off a building and wearing these flags to avoid human contamination. Which is really what Brexit and our own Mexican wall are about, isn't it? It's like, "Let's all die white together." And, that's what the end of the movie is.
So, we ended up having these absurd disguises that had some metaphoric weight. When it played at Cannes, the British critics were like, "Oh my god, this is really moving—people jumping off a building."
That moment also felt pretty Jonestown-y, to be honest.
Well, that's what the characters say, right? “I think she's in a cult... suicide pacts.” And, cults were very au courant then in the '70s.
I feel like they're pretty au courant now.
Yeah, they just are incorporated now. And, they're called Churches of Scientology.