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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

Punk came alive in England in the 1970's. Those who caught the wave were washed over by its messages of individuality, sexual liberation and the desire to break free from traditionalism and mainstream influence. Many of the ideas that formed the culture were rooted in antiestablishment and anti-authoritarian ideologies that seeped into everything. This way of life appealed especially to a younger crowd, including three English guys named Enn, Vic and John.

One night after leaving a raging punk party, Enn and his friends decide to be true revolutionaries by making a few stops—and trying to sleep with a few girls—before going home. As they walk down a London street, they hear music unlike anything they've ever experienced before. And when they find the house responsible for all the commotion, they walk in to find, er, a "party." Of sorts.

Except this party isn't what they're accustomed to. In fact, these, um, people aren't who they're accustomed to. It turns out they're not people at all. They're aliens who have come to Earth for a quick field trip and planetside soiree.

And one rebellious alien in particular, a female-looking being called Zan, catches Enn's eye and asks him to culture her in all things "punk" for the next 48 hours.

Positive Elements

Many of the characters possess a desire to break away from the norm so that they can focus on who they truly are. In itself, this isn't a bad thing: While these characters often pursue individuality in destructive ways, God made us individuals, and it's not wrong to embrace our uniqueness. Enn advocates for others to love the Earth and all that's around them.

Zan tells Enn that the heart and love break down barriers and create a more peaceful world. When a mother is given the choice to abort her babies or raise them, she chooses to raise them, even at great personal sacrifice. One boy asks for dating advice: His friends encourage him to be himself and allow his date to do the same.

Spiritual Content

The alien groups each have a "parent-teacher" or a leader who is looked at as its mother/father figure. There is one great, genderless, alien who is representative of a godlike figure and is the ultimate "parent-teacher" who possesses all knowledge and power.

When Zan runs off with Enn, her parent-teacher, called Waldo, takes possession of various people (including a child) and speaks through them to try and convince Zan to return to her alien colony. Other aliens are able to put humans into a trance through the sounds they make. Zan tells Enn that her alien colonies are divided into seven energies, including: spirit, mind, voice, will, strength, sex and heart.

Enn and his pals are led to believe that the aliens are running a cult-like organization that must be defeated. Zan and Enn sing, "Please god, don't leave me alone."

Sexual Content

This film suggests that free, unfetttered sex is a key to happiness and fulfillment for both humans and aliens, and much of the film is consumed with explicit sexual content as well as general sexual undertones.

The aliens (whose genders are blurred) that specialize in sexual gratification are known as "Stellas" and perform graphic sexual acts on both men and women. We hear noises, see body parts (such as a semi-bare backside) and watch people being sexually violated (once in a room dedicated to acts of S&M). Men kiss one another, as do women, and someone mimics a sexual act near another person.

There are plenty of tawdry jokes and references, including a nod to someone losing their virginity and having sex with various people. Vic instructs his friends to take advantage of girls who look lonely and isolated. Other crass comments involve male and female genitalia. Women (and aliens) wear tight clothing and some shirts that make it clear that they're braless. Someone is seen from the backside in their underwear. Men go shirtless and are seen in boxers. A teen is asked to remove his clothes.

Queen Boadicea, the ringleader of a human punk cult, makes punk clothing and undergarments, many of which are fashioned from metal and other materials and are showcased on mannequins as being sadomasochistic. Her son models some of her work, wearing a dress with his nipples covered in tape and a chain around his neck

The aliens look as if they're all one gender, but it's obvious that they do not conform to any specific gender (they also have the ability to graphically morph sexually, almost like a form of sexual mitosis). Someone references a sexual connection and says she's pregnant. Couples kiss, dance together and engage in other sexual acts. Someone mentions that they have herpes and a man twists a male alien's nipples.

Violent Content

Zan shares with Enn that each of the parent-teachers in her colony must eat their children (the aliens themselves) so that they can continue to preserve their lineage. The humans consider this cannibalism, naturally, but the aliens believe it to be a part of the natural order. One scene includes an alien's jaw being broken and enlarged, and his "child" shoved into his mouth, screaming. Each of the other alien children are terrified, and it's implied that the rest are eaten as well. Zan sings a song about this process: "Eat me alive mommy, eat me alive daddy."

The entire punk group (which functions more like a cult) attacks the aliens; punches are thrown and people are kicked. A man is slapped in the face. Someone throws a glass bottle at an unruly teenager. A woman shouts that she's had 12 abortions. An alien says that rape is not allowed on their colonies.

Crude or Profane Language

Jesus name is misused once. The f-word is used nearly 40 times. Other profanities include the s-word, "a--hole," "h---" "b--ch," "f-g" and "d--n." British vulgarties such as "w--king," "bloody," "g-sh," "s-d off" and "p-ss off" are used too. Characters perform crude gestures.

Drug and Alcohol Content

People smoke cigarettes and do drugs. They also drink hard liquor, sometimes to excess.

Other Negative Elements

Enn lives alone with his mother. He's angry with and bitter about her, and he also harbors ill will toward his father, who left them when he was a young boy. He and his mother get into a disagreement, and harsh words are exchanged.

Enn is publicly laughed at, as are his friends and Zan. Zan sucks blood off of Enn's finger. She also licks his face, throws up in his mouth, makes him pet her armpit and performs other strange acts as she is learning what it is to be a human, to feel everything and to live without regulations.

Someone spits on a mirror, and a drawing of a man sitting on a toilet hangs on the wall. A mother berates her son after a failed musical performance. Someone says that "white people trying to sing like black people" is racist. Anarchist references are heard, such as, "Smash the oppressor!" and, "Evolve or die!"

The aliens are not allowed to "manifest individuality" until they reach a certain point in their lives. Those that have any deformities or act differently are expected to hide what makes them unique.

Conclusion

Have you ever walked out of the theater and thought to yourself, What just happened? Well, that's what I thought throughout every moment of this film.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties is based on a graphic novel which shares the same title as the film. But where the novel functions as a sci-fi metaphor for the complicated relationships between guys and girls, the film grasps at that idea while throwing in a myriad of others, none of which feel complete at the end.

It's a bizarre movie that wants to be a cult classic but may not have the strength, or the sense, to do so. It dips its toes in themes such as love, freedom, individuality and independence. But each of these positives is heavily overshadowed with extremely problematic content, ranging from its tawdry sex scenes (some involving sadomasochism) to its weird, spiritual posturing and cult-like behaviors.

This is not a movie that I'd recommend to anyone. Ever.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Elle Fanning as Zan; Alex Sharp as Enn; Nicole Kidman; Queen Boadicea; Ethan Lawrence as John; Abraham Lewis as Vic; Ruth Wilson as PT Stella; Alice Sanders as Spinning Jenny; Tom Brooke as PT Waldo

Director

John Cameron Mitchell ( )

Distributor

A24

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

May 25, 2018

On Video

August 14, 2018

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Kristin Smith

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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