The Image of You

Here’s the thing about good trash: You can’t really make it on purpose. Oh, you can certainly try, but the very nature of it requires a sense of sincerity. In other words, a movie needs to possess at least a semblance of taking itself seriously. (Think Showgirls.) Purposefully aiming for trashiness takes away the specific element that allows a picture to achieve the “good” part. The Image of You proves how horribly things can go wrong when being trashy is the primary goal. Instead of generating entertainment, the self-indulgent, winking tone turns oppressive pretty quickly.

Good-girl Anna (Sasha Pieterse) has fallen in love with Nick (Parker Young), a guy she met on a dating website. He’s fallen for her, too. Within weeks of meeting, they get engaged to the dismay of her oddly suspicious parents Alexia (Mira Sorvino) and David (Nestor Carbonell). Meanwhile, Anna’s bad-girl identical twin sister Zoe (also played by Pieterse) pokes around, clearly distrustful of Nick. She thinks he’s a player and tries to prove her theory by seducing him.

You can see where this is going. Except that you kind of can’t. The Image of You is the sort of movie that thinks there must be an earth-shattering twist during the third act. Boy, is there ever. The problem is that screenwriter Chris Sivertson, adapting Adele Parks’ novel, relies on a twist that has already been done multiple times onscreen, most famously in a '90s cult favorite. Because it’s old hat, the impact is minimal. Sordid stuff happens, yet caring about any of it is virtually impossible, thanks to the overwhelming sensation of “been there, done that.”

The movie only cares about that third act anyway. Everything else is just build-up to get there. Consequently, the first hour is lazy. The relationship between Anna and Nick is paper-thin. Not once did I believe they actually cared about each other. Zoe is a one-dimensional manipulative psycho whose motivations feel forced. And how can we feel any empathy for Nick when he willingly cheats on the world’s nicest woman with her own twin? Worst of all are the depictions of Alexia and David. These characters might as well have flashing neon signs above their heads saying, “I’m keeping a dark secret!” Nick is a special kind of stupid to spend more than two minutes around them without running away in terror.

The whole effect of The Image of You is weird, from director Jeff Fisher’s distracting overuse of split screen, to the uneven performances, to the artificially overheated sexuality. Some of this might have been amusing if we felt the film was less aware of itself. We can tell, however, that everything is being executed with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge tone that stifles any potential entertainment value. When a picture essentially spends its entire running time pointing to itself and saying, “Look how trashy I am!”, the joy of discovery evaporates.

If you want a good-trashy psychosexual thriller, stick with something like Wild Things or Poison Ivy. The Image of You is unfortunately just trash-trashy.

out of four

The Image of You is rated R for sexual content/nudity, language throughout, and some violence. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan