Rating: 2.5 stars
Exactly what Zan’s colony wants here is unclear. Do they come in peace, e.g., for research? Or for more nefarious purposes? That question — the central mystery of so many alien-invasion thrillers — takes a back seat to the enigmas of the human heart, in what amounts to a bittersweet, if slight, metaphor about love by John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”).
The real question is this: Who exactly is more alien — Zan and her fellow E.T.s, who behave like androids dressed in haute couture, circa 1965, or Enn and his coterie of spike-haired and nose-thumbing punks (epitomized by the abrasive band manager Queen Boadicea, played by Nicole Kidman)? A girl, in the eyes of a teenage boy, is like something from another planet, and vice versa — or so the film suggests. Although the movie is based on a 2006 short story by Neil Gaiman, it’s more like a version of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” but with loud guitars. (There’s also an element of “Romeo and Juliet,” in the central device of star-crossed love. That explains the climactic showdown between the punks and the otherworldly interlopers, which is tedious and far from the point of the film.)
Setting the film in the punk heyday underscores the film’s themes of personal freedom and defying authority. And there are heartwarming touches, despite a plot that is muddied by sci-fi mumbo-jumbo about cannibalism.
When it works, it works. And even when it doesn’t, it’s just endearing enough to earn a bit of forgiveness for its flaws. As Zan says to Enn, an aspiring artist and writer who shows her the comic-book zine that is his magnum opus: “There are contradictions in your metaphor, but I am moved by it.”
R. At area theaters. Contains coarse language throughout, sexual content, some drug use and nudity. 102 minutes.