Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Cast: Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson, Alex Sharp
RunTime: 1 hr 42 mins
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 24 May 2018
Synopsis: It's London (well, Croydon to be exact....), 1977, and our teenage hero Henry (Alex Sharp) - known as Enn - and his two friends, John and Vic, are in search of a night to remember, uninterested in the Silver Jubilee celebrations that are going on behind the privet hedges and lace-curtained windows of quiet suburbia. Desperate to be taken seriously by local punk matriarch Boadicea (Nicole Kidman) and her coterie of followers, they hear of a party not far away and decide to gatecrash. On arrival, nothing is quite as they expected. The house seems to be full of teenage students: exotic, foreign, unbelievably gorgeous. Know-it-all ladies' man Vic identifies them as American - what else could they be? Soon, Enn is in way over his head (and heart) with the beautiful, enigmatic Zan (Elle Fanning), an outsider just like him. As Enn becomes her ambassador to a brave new world of punk, partying and music, he learns that Zan has a new world of her own to share (quite literally) and over the course of twenty-four hours, the two will go on an adventure that is truly out of this world.
If you’re cool, you’d know who Neil Gaiman is. The English author known for his short fiction, comic books and graphic novels have inspired a generation of geeks to keep conversations on The Sandman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Graveyard Book going for years. Titles like Stardust, Coraline and American Gods have been made into critically acclaimed movies and TV series.
That is why we were excited about this science fiction movie based on the 2006 short story of the same name by Gaiman. There are punk wannabes (in oh so cool UK too!), strange beings dressed in brightly coloured rubber attire (sure looks like a sex orgy party!) and a very odd Nicole Kidman as a punk rock queen - but the resulting film is a mixed bag of queerness.
Set in 1970s UK, a teenage boy and his two misfit friends (one of them has a third nipple) chance upon an isolated house filled with beings evidently not from the country - could they be Americans? The trio travel from room to room experiencing really weird things done by the colourfully clad beings. They soon find out that these latex draped creatures are aliens and there’s an outrageous plan in store. Enter a rebellious young extraterrestrial that yearns to know more about the outside world, and yes, you have a romance brewing.
If you are familiar with Gaiman’s works, this strange genre wouldn’t surprise you. While the story might have worked well on print, translating it for the big screen is a separate challenge (that’s probably the reason why we are still waiting for a Sandman movie to happen). The wildly imaginative realms of Gaiman’s world can only go as far as perplexingly bizarre dialogues, curiously designed costumes and anything that may earn this film a cult favourite status.
The only way it resonates with the mere mortal is through the protagonist and the extraterrestrial’s romance, which seems like a convenient approach to reach out to the masses. The last scene provides a nostalgic closure, but you feel like that could have been something more.
Another reason why we had such high expectations of this film is because of the director John Cameron Mitchell. The filmmaker known for originating the title role in the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, as well as reprising it in the 2001 film adaptation directed by himself, seems to be trying to straddle between quirkiness and mainstream romance in his latest work. As a result, the 102 minute film is uneven in tone and becomes predictable towards the end.
Alex Sharp, better known for his Broadway performances, takes on the role of the protagonist with ease. He emotes well with his lovelorn eyes, and you feel for the character when he comes to term with his romance. Elle Fanning is the extraterrestrial who wishes to change the course of her life, and having played key roles in The Neon Demon (2016) and The Beguiled (2017), this shouldn’t be difficult for the 20 year old actress. Hamming it up and adding star power is, of course, Kidman. The actress has been taking on interesting projects like Lion (2016) and The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) recently, which probably explains her involvement in this film.
This film is undoubtedly an ambitious project, but the results could have been much, much more spectacular.
(This is a mixed bag of queerness which could have benefited if the filmmakers were more outrageous and bold)
Review by John Li