Gemini – AFI Film Festival Review (2017)
Adam reviews the Neo-Noir Thriller written and directed by Aaron Katz, Gemini. The film starring Lola Kirke, Zöe Kravitz, John Cho and James Ransone played as a part of AFI Film Festival’s American Independent section.
Aaron Katz’s Gemini is a breath of fresh air. While others genre endeavors steep themselves heavily into the 1980’s of John Carpenter with synth scores and long Steadicam shots, Katz has zigged instead of zagging. Katz’s newest film finds him in a world of Hollywood and LA Neo-Noir. Gemini finds Lola Kirke on the run from the law trying to find clues to a mystery surrounding her boss, a young Star played by Zöe Kravitz.
From the opening moments the beautiful lush score’s echoing saxophone as we track upon palm trees Katz’s recalls but never fully references great Noir like Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. Gemini works so well because it never feels like an echo chamber of hallow references. Though playing in a similar world as De Palma (Body Double) and Lynch (Mulholland Drive) it never feels like it’s a carbon copy of anything that has come before it.
By centering on Kirke’s Jill, the personal assistant, and her relationship with Kravitz’s Heather the film adds a layer never present in Neo-Noir. We care about both Jill and Heather. Katz ensures that we spend enough time with them and see that though Jill may be Heather’s personal assistant there is a friendship beyond this working relationship, albeit one that may not the healthiest. By the time the film fully commits to the mystery the audience is fully invested.
As a showcase, the film gives Lola Kirke her best role to date. Jill is not your average Noir hero. As she is not a detective, ex-cop or any of the clichéd troupes she is instantly out of her element. Kirke’s performance showing us the put upon young woman quickly grasp the situation she is in is one of the true joys of recent memory. Part of the fun of the piece is seeing how Jill uses her particular skills to stay ahead of police and unravel a mystery that could put her in jail.
Kravitz continues to show how powerful a performer she has become. The role completely sidesteps your normal “spoiled actress” clichés that many films would write. Kravitz’s Heather is a complicated young woman bonded by the chains of stardom. How Kravitz displays the anxiety, discomfort and codependence of Heather with a few scenes is simply stunning. Heather never feels like a one dimensional spoiled actress or vamp. That is credit to Kravitz ample and growing powers as an actress more so than Katz’s writing as the way the part is written it could have gone the other way.
Many will want the traditional Noir ending that Gemini eschews very purposely. That wherein lies the film’s power. Katz though wanting to make a film that recalls the psycho sexual thrillers of the 1990’s and the great Noir’s of yesteryear is merely using it as a framework to hang his story of two friends and co-dependence. The film’s resolution may be too convenient for some. They are not looking close enough that the film was never about the trappings but about the relationships we have that we may find convenience in and not respect.