' ' Cinema Romantico: Gemini

Monday, April 16, 2018


“Gemini” is preceded by a showing of “Aspirational”, the 2014 short film in which Kirsten Dunst, playing herself, is comically, cuttingly reduced to a prop in the selfies of a pair of millennial fans who approach (semi-accost) her on the street. This pre-movie treat initially suggests something akin to a mission statement, considering that writer/director/editor Aaron Katz essentially lifts a few shots verbatim, where his own movie’s famous actress, Heather Anderson (Zoë Kravitz), is forced into a photo in a diner booth with an over-zealous fan. It suggests friendship in our confusing digital age as forged through nothing more than an Instagram page and a hashtag, which Jill LeBeau (Lola Kirke), the woman sitting opposite them, is there to refute. She might be Heather’s personal assistant, putting out her client’s fire as the movie begins, but she is also Heather’s friend, and that friendship is what the movie’s first twenty or so minutes coolly evokes. Rhythms of anxiety and chill alternate as Heather and Jill fend off a sneering paparazzi (an impeccably cast James Ransone), shoot the shit over Mello Yello and St. Germaine, a peculiar concoction heralding the movie’s own air, and sing karaoke, the latter sequence concluding on an astonishing neon-bathed close-up of Kravitz, where she effortlessly evinces both joy in the moment and a seemingly kind of cosmic knowing of what comes next.

What comes next is that Heather winds up dead on the floor of her own home with Jill fingered as the prime suspect. If this twist suggests an injection of gravity, the movie merely gets lighter, as if a warm breeze blows through to completely remove any sense of edge. In one scene, the detective assigned to the case, Ahn (John Cho), takes Jill to a diner, more or less forcing her to drink coffee and asking questions in a way that suggests he knows what’s up. As he does, however, the camera suddenly slides left to right revealing the sneering paparazzi one stool over, listening in. Ahn deals with him, but then the camera slides back right to left, revealing that Jill has run out the door. It’s an ancient trick of what is in the frame and what is out of the frame, but in this context it also evinces how Katz deliberately diffuses his own drama by cutting away to something else.

If the first twenty or so minutes of the movie suggest that anything can happen, the rest of the movie demonstrates that nothing really will, as even a late movie motorcycle/car chase minimizes the adrenaline by keeping the camera still, less concerned with thrills than angles, reveling in the sparkling nighttime Hollywood Hills scenery as the camera cranes up. Katz has worked mystery territory before with “Cold Weather” (this blog’s favorite 2011 movie), and while no one would have confused it with John le Carré, it was positively intricate compared to “Gemini”, which has A Ha moments so easily obvious that they feel pulled from “Scoop.” As such, Katz barely seems to care about the mystery, employing it merely as a means to proffer an exercise in tone. That tone, while occasionally nodding toward the icy-blue atmospherics of Michael Mann, ultimately feels more like an improbable blend of the drollness of “The Nice Guys” and the surreality of “Mulholland Drive”, where the indifferent air of a movie producer (Nelson Franklin) does not come to stand for anything more than his own indifference to compassion and a tendering of the voodoo juice to Jill at some tiki-themed bar does not come to mean anything more than the moment’s own delightful abnormality.

“Cold Weather” was droll too yet ultimately revealed its mystery as the conduit to a re-conjuring of childhood innocence. And the ultimate twist, not to be revealed, in “Gemini” also suggests the opportunity to transform the film into something else, calling back to its “Aspirational” opening. That doesn’t happen. As the movie concludes and the camera gazes upon downtown Los Angeles from afar, the whole thing practically evaporates, like waking up from a dream.

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