Neil Gaiman and John Cameron Mitchell have come together adapt the short story How to Talk to Girls at Parties to the big screen. It’s no American Gods.
On the heels of the much-acclaimed premiere of American Gods on Starz, John Cameron Mitchell’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties just premiered at Cannes. These are two very different stories, in length, focus, and even genre. One’s based in mythology, the other in science fiction. While American Gods is vast, and contains multitudes, Girls is spare. Where American Gods is the entirety of Wager’s Ring Cycle, Girls is a punk rock show. It’s three raw chords reverberating in a dirty London street.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties is a short story by Neil Gaiman that came for free with my Nook, years ago. I honestly kept forgetting it was there, for years, sitting between two other freebies I never ended up reading (I think I’d already read one, and didn’t like the other author). It just kept slipping from my mind.
But, learning that it’s been adapted to the big screen, I figured I should finally read it. I’m really glad I did. It’s a sad and lovely little vignette, about what it’s like to be an awkward, shy 15-year-old boy. The main character, Enn, does not know how to talk to girls, at parties or otherwise.
In How to Talk to Girls at Parties, Enn’s friend Vic drags him to a party he heard about, but they get lost and end up at a different gathering altogether. Enn tries to chat up some of the other guests, all of whom are very pretty girls. He’s admittedly out of his element. He’s at that age when girls are suddenly young adults, and boys are still basically kids. They’re two different species, and may as well be aliens. Thing is, these girls actually are aliens. They’re tourists and exchange students from across the galaxy, visiting Earth for their various reasons.
(Not that you have to be a teenage boy trying to talk to girls as parties to experience the agony of attempting conversation with strangers as a shy person who may or may not have some autistic tendencies. Yes, you’re all aliens to me.)
In the story, at least, Enn never does figure out that he’s at an alien party. But Vic does, and he doesn’t handle it well. The story is short and bittersweet.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties is so short that it makes great bones for a movie. Its length also means that there isn’t much to work with. Enn and Vic find the party, Enn talks to like three girls, and they leave.
This is very much the opposite situation Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have with American Gods. That book is long, dense and packed with meaning, not to mention the literal pantheon of characters involved. To make the American Gods series on Starz, the showrunners had to carefully carve out and distill a vast story and make it into a 10-episode show. That didn’t work, and they had to expand it. The first season is eight episodes long, and that will just bring us to the meat of the story at the start of season 2.
The relative lack of details in How to Talk to Girls at Parties leaves a lot of room for John Cameron Mitchell (creator of one of my very favorite things, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) to to fill in the blanks. And judging from the clip Mitchell posted on Instagram, I think we’re in for quite a bacchanal.
And here are a couple more clips from Neil Gaiman and Elle Fanning (who will play an alien named Zan).
So far, the reviews are not great. But I will keep an open mind until I see it myself. How to Talk to Girls at Parties will be coming to a theater near you sometime in 2017. In the meantime, you can read the story for free via Neil Gaiman’s blog.