I walked into this one cold, not knowing a thing about it—if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t’ve walked in at all. Imitation Girl (2017), by writer-director Natasha Kermani (who also has a music credit), had me wanting to crawl out of my skin or, failing that, drop down in front of my front row seat to do some pushups, because I detest fish-out-of-water stories, and this film has three of them: adult film star Julianna (Lauren Ashley Carter) trying to improve her life but being utterly unprepared, an alien (also Carter) who seems to be a benevolent version of the alien from Under the Skin (2013) slowly acclimating to human society, and Lauren Ashley Carter herself doing her best to pretend fluency in Farsi, because that’s the main language of the family the alien joins. For me, it was pure torture.
It didn’t help that aside from Carter’s performance and Travis Tips’s cinematography, the film is pretty much forgettable. Julianna’s identity as a sex worker is lazy characterization, the whole alien learning about human society thing has been done to death with nothing new to see here, and even the Iranian family (Neimah Djourabchi and Sanam Erfani playing brother and sister, respectively) plays more like the film is set in Iran, with the film declining to engage with their stated refugee status. Even the score, by Kevin Hufnagel, is off, dominated by discordant notes even though we’re supposed to be rooting for the alien. The final straw is the climax: I think the film is going for making Julianne hit rock bottom so hard that she’s open to communing with the alien, but the penultimate scene has her seemingly triumph over her mid-career crisis.
Reflecting on this horrid filmgoing experience, I recalled two other fish-out-of-water films that didn’t rankle me as much: Being There (1979) and Your Name (2016). I think it’s because they both avoid the awkwardness factor: The former’s script walks a very fine line, and the latter uses so-called “anime logic.” Would that this film had used “science fiction logic.” Alas!