John Cameron Mitchell’s Timid How To Talk To Girls At Parties

Reviewed by Kristy Puchko

In 2001, John Cameron Mitchell roared onto the film scene like a bat out of hell with Hedwig And The Angry Inch. Based on his daring Off-Broadway show, this outrageous rock musical was celebrated for its poignant tale of self-love and the dynamic spectacle of its sensational song numbers. Remarkably, Mitchell brought the experience of the live show into the movie theater, creating a sense of enchanting spontaneity that transformed the audiences who saw it. And that included me.

Hedwig And The Angry Inch was one of the first films I’d see after moving out of my parents’ house, my little hometown, and to New York City. I was intrigued by the music teased on the film’s website. But nothing could prepare me for the sheer magnetism of Mitchell in the titular role, a rock goddess electric with passion, vulnerability, and rage. I still cherish the memory of watching that film in theaters. Mitchell’s campy yet cerebral visuals had me awestruck, my jaw dropped, my heart pounding so hard it might burst through my ribs. It felt like a jagged path to a whole new world was ripped open before me. Hedwig’s burning wit, onstage ferocity, and never-say-die attitude were intoxicating and inspiring. Since, he’s made other films, the frankly sexual Shortbus and the deeply haunting Rabbit Hole. But none hit me as hard or as deeply as Hedwig did. So, it was with a giddy anticipation I awaited How To Talk To Girls At Parties, Mitchell’s return to the movie musical after 16 years.

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