Monday, September 10, 2018

Movie Review: Gemini

Gemini *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Aaron Katz.
Written by: Aaron Katz.
Starring: Lola Kirke (Jill LeBeau), Zoe Kravitz (Heather Anderson), John Cho (Detective Edward Ahn), Greta Lee (Tracy), Ricki Lake (Vanessa), Michelle Forbes (Jamie), Nelson Franklin (Greg), Reeve Carney (Devin), Jessica Parker Kennedy (Sierra), James Ransone (Stan), Todd Louiso (Keith), Marianne Rendon (Cassandra), Abraham Lim (Seo-Jin), Gabriela Flores (Andrea).
As ambitions go, trying to be a female version of Altman’s The Long Goodbye for the social media era is a good thing to strive for. I don’t think that Aaron Katz’s Gemini is quite able to reach the heights that it aspires to – it doesn’t quite push itself far enough – but it’s a nifty little neo-noir anyway, with an interesting lead performance by Lola Kirke, and a clear eyed view of the nature of celebrity. There is a mystery at its core, but the film doesn’t really seem all that interested in solving it (although it will) – instead focusing on an its characters as paranoid – and perhaps with good reason.
In the film, Kirke plays Jill, the personal assistant to Heather (Zoe Kravitz), a movie star who is sick of the whole movie star thing. She is going to back out of an upcoming movie, which because it was an indie, pretty much dooms its prospects of being made at all. She is going to meet the director of this movie at a diner – but chickens out and sends Jill in her place. He isn’t happy. Neither is Heather’s boyfriend, who literally left a message saying he was going to kill her. Heather will also anger a fan, who approaches them at the restaurant, and who’s each request escalates things more and more, and becomes more and more personal and unreasonable. There’s also a sleazy TMZ like reporter following Heather around. Heather, then, is perhaps justly paranoid, and ends up borrowing Jill’s gun. When a body is found the next day at Heather’s, there are no lack of suspects – although the cop assigned to investigate (John Cho) has his eyes on Jill herself – who unlike most people in real life, keeps ducking the cops, and trying to solve the murder herself.
How she goes about this is funny, in a deadpan kind of way. She dons the worst, least convincing disguise you can imagine, and goes around asking the other suspects in the case what they were doing – and somehow, she manages to miss the cops at all times. Kirke is an interesting actress – I adored her in Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America (much more than I liked the movie itself, which I think is one of his weakest), and here she does something interesting. She seems tired when the movie begins, and keeps getting more and more tired throughout. It’s a low energy performance, but it’s somehow fitting for the material. Kravitz does something similar – she’s a movie star, but she doesn’t really care about that anymore, or perhaps care about anything. She lives in a world that is all about her image – all about social media posts, where the way you appear on line is more important than anything. They also have a strange relationship with each other. They are closer to each other than anyone else – spend all their time together, and say they are friends. But are they really? After all, Heather is paying Jill to be there. The movie explores these realities a little as the movie progresses – but I don’t think it quite knows how to resolve them (there seems like a scene or two deliberately missing before the final scene in the film).
Written and directed by Aaron Katz, Gemini works best as a dreamlike portrait of Los Angeles, and a portrait of this social media generation – and less so as a mystery. There is a mystery at its core, and it takes some twists and turns along the way – none of them all that surprising, or I think even really trying to be. What’s a shame then is that Katz spends so much time on the plot of the movie, because he’s not really interested in – it’s more a way to get where he’s going than anything else. Still, Gemini is an odd, fascinating little movie – it’s going for something in its portrait of this generation –and he knows the footsteps he’s walking in (Robert Altman, David Lynch and a host of other LA filmmakers), but stops short of something truly special.

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