My favorite things of 2018 - Day #17

Today's entry in the list of my favorite things of the year is my guilty pleasure of the year. The flawed gem that I see the beauty in.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties takes its' inspiration from Neil Gaiman's short story of the same name. Director John Cameron Mitchell crafted a slightly uneven, but passionate and energetic, interpretation of the tale. The film is both faithful to the spirit of the original, but also something all it's own.

Taking the short story up to a full length feature was always going to stretch the concept, and this one certainly does that. The central idea, of crashing a weekend party where you didn't really know anyone, only to find out you have ended up meeting actual aliens, was a brilliant collision of teen awkwardness, and the exploration of unexpected horizons.

I have a soft spot for adaptations that distill the essence of their source material and fuse it into something new.

The film takes risks in flushing out such a brilliantly captured, but surreal, vignette, but it feels liket hey took the right type of risks for this story. Especially for an audience who might come to the film out of affection for the original. For me, one of the things they understood well was that those who truly enjoy the work of Neil Gaiman, are also those who are most likely to appreciate a story that wanders off in a different direction than you expected.

It's not wrong, it's just different.

Different can be good.

The central performances were great. Elle Fanning was just the right combination of the naive alien and strong spirit, in what would have been an easy role to overdo. Alex Sharp, AJ Lewis, and Ethan Lawrence worked well as the trio of friends who suddenly find themselves in some rather surreal company.  

It does try to cram an awful lot into the run-time, but it all kind of worked for me. Even when it recruits Nicole Kidman to channel her inner Vivienne Westwood just so the film can remind you that this was indeed a punk tale. It reaches for some high concept stuff in the final act, and just about nails the landing. 

On one hand its standard boy meets girl stuff. Overcoming differences and all that, while on the other, it has a bunch of things to say about love, life, the universe, art, music, traditions, and conformity. That all seems very apt for a film that clearly wants to channel the spirit of that very specific time and place in British culture, when music again inspired a generation to imagine a different world.

Different can be good.