Movies like How to Talk to Girls at Parties are aimed at people like me (or people who are like me, but 10 years younger): Punks, weirdos, kids with dyed hair, heroic goths wearing all black on a hot summer day, teens making an argument for wearing combat boots to a wedding. I am you. Or, I was you.

I’m protective of punk, though I came to it in the ’90s. I never owned a studded belt, but I’ve moshed and fought and stood on cars. I forgot to put my facial piercings back in after work, but you can still see their scars. I don’t know what the experience of being a young male punk is like, but it seems like maybe I should at this point, because that’s the perspective we always seem to get. What’s life like for this one regular punk guy? If you still don’t know—if SLC Punk, Rude Boy, or Trainspotting didn’t tell you—then How to Talk to Girls at Parties is here to tell you again.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties is also a bland disappointment, because it sounds so good in theory: It’s a cosmic alignment of director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus), actress Elle Fanning, and Xiu Xiu musician Jamie Stewart—all of whom converge to make a film adaptation of a Neil Gaiman short story. That sounds fun, weird, and like it’s probably very sexy.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties is a bland disappointment, because it sounds so good in theory.

Alas, we experience How to Talk to Girls from the perspective of another middle-ish income, regular punk guy Enn (Alex Sharp), a non-person of a character. Enn goes to shows with a couple friends (one is taller and more aggressive than he is, one is shorter and more sensitive), and while trying to find an after party, they stumble upon a noisy, artsy gathering of what turns out to be a group of alien tourists. Zan (Fanning) is one of them, and Enn convinces her to leave her tour group and learn about “the punk” with him. There’s an implied handjob, and from there on out, it’s Enn’s job to spout punk clichés in an attempt to explain rebellion to his new girlfriend Zan.

Oh, and Nicole Kidman’s here too? She’s flat-out unbelievable as a punk counterculture artist (she’s Nicole Kidman), but when she lets her regular Nicole Kidman shine through, I was pleased to have her around—it’s impossible not to enjoy that particular thrill Kidman brings to the spine when she speaks with authority. Still, there’s something glib and offensive about her makeover of Zan, which transforms the innocent alien into a spotlight-ready punk singer. The supposedly improvised musical number that follows is the film’s most embarrassing low point.

None of this is Neil Gaiman’s fault. Gaiman’s 2006 story ends with a noise show/art party. There’s no teaching Zan about rebellion, there’s no makeover, and there’s probably a reason the film immediately declines in quality once it goes off-book.

John Cameron Mitchell’s subtle, comedic touches still dot the film, like the physical comedy of several dozen alien tourists tromping around in full-body Union Jack ponchos. This kind of stuff might fool you into continuing to stick around for a few more scenes, hoping the film will turn around. But How to Talk to Girls just continues to slide downhill at a steady pace. It’s like being in a slowly deflating bouncy castle: The expectation for bouncing is great, but the reality is increasingly hard, flat earth.