Tuesday, June 06, 2017

DWF ’17: Imitation Girl

She is a traveler like Starman, but cuter and a faster learner. A day or two after arriving in the middle of the New Mexican boonies, she is already speaking reasonably fluent Farsi. Neat trick, right? However, the naïve alien has a profoundly less happy earthly double out there, so it seems a near-certainty they will eventually meet in Natasha Kermani’s Imitation Girl (trailer here), which screens during this year’s Dances with Films.

As luck would have it, the first image the alien ooze comes across is a “sophisticate” magazine left behind by the horny youth spooked by the loud crashing noise. Juliana Fox was the cover model of that issue, so it is her image the Imitation assumes. The desert is a harsh environment for a woman in a negligee, but she manages to make it to the road house managed by Saghi, the son of Iranian immigrants. He and his sister Khahar will teach her the essentials of human living. They do not quite know what to make of her, but they quickly become found of her, especially Saghi.

Meanwhile, Fox is in the throes of an existential crisis. She has wearied of her work in dirty movies, so she signs up for a long-shot conservatory audition after a chance meeting with a former music teacher. Unfortunately, her drug-fueled lifestyle is really starting to catch up with her.

Lauren Ashley Carter, the horror ingenue star of The Mind’s Eye, Darling, and Jug Face is terrific in the dual role of Fox and her imitation. They could not be any more radically dissimilar, but she makes them both quite poignant in their own ways. Neimah Djourabchi and Sanam Erfani are both very engaging but also believably down to earth as the Southwestern Persian siblings. In fact, he gets the best speech of the film, which he knocks out of the park. As an added bonus, Catherine Mary Stewart (from Night of the Comet) turns up as Dorothy Phan, the music teacher.

Obviously, Imitation has a message about what it means to be human, but it is also a generously forgiving and humanistic film. However, the crisp, clean look is actually counter-productive. It is meant to be a dream-like fable, but it looks like a standard issue indie comedy. Still, it is ultimately not how it looks that matters, but what’s inside that counts, right? In this case, it is a thoughtful work of speculative-fantastical fiction, featuring several mature and graceful performances. Highly recommended for fans of first contact sf and fish-out-of-water movies, Imitation Girl screens tonight (6/6), as part of this year’s Dances with Films, in downtown Hollywood.