2017 Cannes Film Festival: “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” Starring Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman

2017 Cannes Film Festival: “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” Starring Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman

France Today correspondent Anne McCarthy is on location in Cannes to cover the famous film festival. For more of her dispatches and reviews, click here.

Talking to crushes at parties is hard to do. Just ask anyone who has ever been alive.

It becomes even harder when the girl at the party happens to be an alien life form who is bound to her alien comrades and only has 48 hours to spend with you.

Elle Fanning is Zan, the milky-skinned alien girl in question. Everything in this world, which happens to be in Croydon in south London, is foreign to her. Things like using the bathroom, kissing boys, and sitting in cafes are all new, challenging experiences.

She’s the object of the affection of Enn (short for Henry), played by Alex Sharp, a Juilliard grad and Tony Award-winning actor (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). Enn is a punk kid who idolizes the Ramones, the Clash, and the Sex Pistols, and dresses the part. He lives for punk, and he wants to show Zan the beauty of the punk life, too.

Flanked by his two mates, the three boys wander into a house where they hear a party booming from the front yard. The party turns out to be an alien gathering, and one where they each have very different experiences; one of the boys grabs the other two and insists they leave after an pleasant-turned-unpleasant encounter with a spandex-clad “Stella” alien. (“Stella,” he says when they first meet, “that’s the most beautiful name I ever heard…”)

After they flee the party, Enn is hung up on Zan. He insists she join him for a bit, and she gives in. Throughout the hurried 48 hours of domestic bliss mixed with punk shenanigans, the two fall deeply in love in only the way that two teens can with a hellbent punk you-only-live-once-so-live-fast-die-hard outlook. Enn is smitten early on, and Zan eventually follows suit.

Making an out-of-left field choice of roles is Nicole Kidman (she has two films at Cannes this year, the other is The Killing of a Sacred Deer). Kidman commands attention onscreen when she plays Queen Boadicea. The queen is a punk-rock goddess who claims responsibility for the meteoric rise of the careers of everyone from punky-chic fashion designer Vivienne Westwood to the Ramones. For the fashion-minded, the film is worth seeing for her costumes alone. Queen Boadicea is an arbiter of taste, and shows favor to Zan and her unusual ways.

At a warehouse punk concert, orchestrated by the Queen, Zan is centerstage in a outfit and mohawk-inspired hairdo reminiscent of Gwen Stefani. Then, all hell breaks lose and Zan and Enn are left to make choices which will forever decide the fate of their relationship to one another.

The film, directed by John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) is based off a 2006 short story by the king of the fantasy tale, Neil Gaiman (Coraline, Stardust, The Graveyard Book, Sandman). Gaiman  himself was a young fan of punk back in the day. The film is tinged with Gaiman’s style – its otherworldly and impossibly dreamt up by anyone but him.

Despite the weirdness, the trippy storyline, and the bizarre, engrossing visuals, it is – like most stories are in some way – a love story.

And if you can get past the acid-trippy weirdness, it’s a really beautiful story. It’s a punk/alien/teenage dream worth stepping into.

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Anne McCarthy is a contributing writer to the BBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and more. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster.

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