LFF 2017: Gemini Review
The horror and seductiveness of Hollywood combines in Aaron Katz's cool neo-noir film, Gemini. Like his lead character, Jill (Lola Kirke), he too is from Portland, Oregon and Katz vicariously shows us his view of life in the city of fallen angels. A double-headed Gemini persona finds its way into almost every element of this murder mystery, right up until the very last shot that pulls away to leave us with a ream of unanswered questions. That's the nature of celebrity life in L.A., where gossip and rumour carries more weight than truth and onscreen projection continues out into the real world.
Heather Anderson (Zoë Kravitz) seems to be doing all she can to pull back from the frontline of celebrity life. Movie stars rarely get to make that decision consciously. Either the industry casts them aside, or they remain cannon fodder for social media. Heather's decision to pull out of a major film project hasn't won her many friends. Director Greg (Nelson Franklin) wants to ring her neck and Lola screens a phone call from Devin (Reeve Carney) who threatens to kill her after finding out he's just been dumped by the film star. Paparazzi are questioning how close Heather and Jill really are and an obsessive fan oversteps the mark when allowed too close.
Set under the cool blue and amber lights of late evening/early morning L.A. Katz's tightly woven opening act questions the intentions of almost everyone we meet. Beneath the glamour of Beverley Hills lay the secrets and lies that keeps the world hungry for more. Heather wants to keep her own mysteries close to her chest and she convinces Lily to hand over her revolver, the same gun that ends up at the centre of a murder the following morning. And yet it's Lily who quickly becomes the prime suspect, forcing her to go on the run in an attempt to clear her name.
Katz's previous efforts were more synonymous with mumblecore and Gemini marks a clear departure thanks to a well-defined plot and structured dialogue. There's a duality attached to almost every character in this movie-centric world. Director Greg's meta-screenplay tries to identify the killer by implementing the three golden rules of crime writing; finding motive, means and opportunity. While Lily disguises herself under blonde hair as she stumbles around trying to find out the identity of the killer.
Joining the cast in the aftermath of the murder is John Cho's Detective Edward Ahn, whose role promises much but isn't given time to do enough with the character. As the stunning movie starlet, Kravitz plays up well to the role of the femme fatale, taking advantage of Heather's organisation, manipulating her to manage the finer details of her life she clearly cannot be bothered to oversee. However, this film depends on Lola Kirke and she makes Lily's growing insecurities feel tangible enough to allow us to overlook the holes that exist in the story.
Keegan Dewitt’s magnetic score also plays its part in shaping the mood and much like the film itself, its sound is something of a nod back to 90s thriller films past. How the story ends may prove to be frustrating for those hoping to peek behind the Hollywood curtain for a while longer, before the camera drifts away to take in the expansive hills one last time. While it doesn’t dig too far under the celebrity surface, Katz compact mystery thriller holds the mirror up to fame with just enough reflective intelligence.