Review: Slick Neo-Noir ‘Gemini’ Stays Surface Level
Writer-director Aaron Katz’s “Gemini “ is a very stylishly executed and well-cast attempt at a Lynchian neo-noir that doesn’t really work. Glum and meandering, the Los Angeles-set mystery about a Hollywood starlet and her assistant starts off promising enough but trudges along aimlessly to a deeply silly and maddening end.
Heather Anderson is the name of the starlet/actress/whatever in question played with otherworldly coolness by the otherworldly cool Zoe Kravitz. We never see her acting, just sort of existing in the moody milieu of L.A.’s middle section, the 1920s-style apartment buildings and strip mall parking lots of Koreatown and the tonier hills to the north. She and her assistant Jill LeBeau (Lola Kirke) may as well be in their own little world, connected to the outside through cell phones and text messages and one stray paparazzi, Stan (James Ransone), who follows them around.
We meet Jill fielding a phone call from Heather’s aggrieved recent ex-boyfriend Devin, who casually threatens to kill Heather for what she’s done to him. Heather arrives shortly after, wonders who it was and kind of rolls her eyes when the message is relayed. Her mind is elsewhere, namely on the project she’s about to bail on. Only she’s not actually going to break the news to the director, Greg (Nelson Franklin). She’s going to make Jill do it.
And like a good, underpaid assistant, Jill tells Greg that the deal is off, which he takes poorly and leaves. Pretty shortly after they get another call from her agent who also threatens to kill Heather for what she’s done. And a grade-A creep of a fan lingers a little longer than anyone is comfortable with. Showbiz, right?
We don’t get much context about how famous Heather is. Her presence is enough to get a movie made, and her absence is enough for it to be called off. She has at least one Instagram superfan and there’s that one paparazzi. But for someone who appears to be extremely wealthy and well-known who is scared all the time and has just had two people express their desire to kill her, it’s unclear why she wouldn’t at this point just hire some personal security or even, say call the police. This is a mystery this film is not interested in solving.
It’s much more dramatic and odd, I guess, to ask your assistant for her gun and then go get drunk with her and your secret (pop star?) girlfriend, Tracy (Greta Lee) at a Neon-soaked club and drive home to your empty house and continue telling your assistant that you’re scared but not do anything about it beyond that.
In the morning, Jill leaves to do another meeting on Heather’s behalf and returns to Heather’s home to find the gun out and a dead body on the ground. In shock, Jill starts calling Heather’s friends to tell them she’s dead. The detective, Edward (John Cho), who speaks only in folksy vagaries, thinks Jill did it, so naturally Jill goes on the run across L.A. in a silly disguise and bad blonde wig (which I believe we’re supposed to think is her hair) to try to prove her own innocence.
Kirke is always watchable and a good presence on screen, but so much about “Gemini” is so contrived that here she looks a little lost in the story at times. There also isn’t much urgency or tension created as she bops around between fancy L.A. bars and homes collecting clues and trying to evade the detective.
The pieces of a good film all seem to be there, and Katz and his regular cinematographer Andrew Reed clearly have a sharp eye for great shots, but it’s unfortunately missing a binding and compelling story that would bring it home.
“Gemini,” a Neon release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “pervasive language, and a violent image.” Running time: 92 minutes. Two stars out of four.