Sometimes you can see a trailer for what feels like years before the movie comes out. Take ALPHA, due out later this month, for instance. I’m pretty sure I saw the first trailer for that back during the administration of George W. Bush. Others seem to slip in and out of theatres so quickly you start to wonder if you ever really saw them. GEMINI was that kind of trailer for me. So it was with great excitement that I caught it recently after having nearly forgotten all about it. Did it turn out to be a diamond in the rough or something I would have missed out on? Let’s find out.

GEMINI: Jill
Lola Kirke basks in the neon lights in a scene from GEMINI. (Courtesy of Neon)

The Idea Behind GEMINI

Heather Anderson (Zoe Kravitz) is a star on the rise who just wants to take a break. She’s dropped out of a movie that took 5 years to get to pre-production. This leads both the writer-director and Heather’s own agent to express a desire to kill her. She also has broken up with her boyfriend Devin (Reeve Carney), a hothead who likes to call Anderson’s assistant Jill LeBeau (Lola Kirke) to express his displeasure.

Jill is Heather’s best weapon. Patient, unflappable, and more than willing to do her boss’s dirty work, LeBeau is way more likely to hear the hate Anderson is accumulating. Heather does seem appreciative in her way, blurring the line between employer-employee and friends.

After a night on the town featuring drinking, karaoke, an interaction with a fan who seems very dedicated to replicating Heather’s look, a borrowed gun, a clandestine same-sex encounter, and lots of paparazzi avoidance, Jill wakes up at Heather’s bizarre glass house. After accidentally firing the aforementioned gun into an apparent prized object of Devin’s, the assistant runs off to cancel yet another one of Heather’s gigs on her behalf. By the time she returns, Heather lies dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Despite the plethora of possible suspects, Detective Edward Ahn (John Cho) focuses on Jill right away. Anxious to prove herself innocent and find the person who did the crime, LeBeau must outrun the cops and con the suspects.

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The Writing

Writer-director Aaron Katz has written a spacey, dreamy script to match his direction. Even in the film’s tensest moments, there is a kind of floating feeling to the conversations. Some incidents go on too long, increasing a sense of vague unease. Meanwhile, others end abruptly leaving the viewer wondering if what was just watched was as important as we initially expected.

Katz is good with a phrase for sure though. In particular, he seems to love writing Michelle Forbes’ acidic agent Jamie, the aforementioned Detective Ahn, and the betrayed writer-director Greg (Nelson Franklin) who seemingly can only discuss the real world in terms of script conventions.

GEMINI: Heather and Jill
Zoe Kravitz observes her assistant Lola Kirke in a scene from GEMINI. (Courtesy of Neon)

Casting The Leads of GEMINI

There is a kindness to Lola Kirke’s performance as Jill. After years of being a professional assistant, she approaches every situation with an eye towards being as accommodating as possible. She has done it for so long the game has become her real second nature. She only bristles when she needs to on behalf of her boss.

Zoe Kravitz, on the other hand, nicely inhabits the newly minted star, Heather. She finds the sweet spot of being a kind boss who nonetheless makes her assistant do the unpleasant tasks with nonchalance. She also finds that bit of cruelty in Anderson, as when she agrees to a fan’s escalating requests against Jill’s recommendations, a look of “I’m punishing you for not getting rid of her in the first place” on her face. She’s never a cartoon, but you know from the start that Heather sees her life as “decisions good for me” and nearly everyone else is objects in that equation.

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Casting the Rest of the GEMINI Call Sheet

As I called out above, you can tell Katz really loved putting words in the mouths of John Cho, Nelson Franklin, and Michelle Forbes. Moreover, you can tell they know what to do with them. Forbes, for instance, makes a line that should never work, “I know we kinda hate each other but I like you,” hit.

Cho is so cool as the Detective you don’t realize till the credits roll that he is sort of bad at his job. Nelson Franklin is the reality of Tarantino’s cool pop culture deconstructionists: so ill-equipped to deal with life that even when dealing with a murder he has to reduce it to story beats.

Other supporters barely register. Greta Lee’s Tracy is beloved by everyone, but we never see why. Reeve Carney makes Devin unpleasant but never remotely intimidating. They exist but the viewer barely feels their impact.

GEMINI: Jill and Detective Ahn
Lola Kirke and John Cho size each other up in GEMINI. (Courtesy of Neon)

Filming

At times, Katz seems more interested in his Los Angeles setting than the characters on-screen. The result is perhaps one of the more revealing takes on LA in the past few years. Whipping through LA’s endless suburban neighborhoods, capturing the smog as it settles into the valley at mid-day, taking an eagle eye view on a low-speed chase through the winding hills above the city. Katz “gets” LA and his lens conveys that intimate knowledge.

The filming also nicely matches the pace of the movie. It does not so much track as drift behind the characters, Jill especially. There is an unhurried nearly hypnotic gaze to the camera whether we are seeing someone hide their identity or escape a home out a window and across a roof.

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Striking The Set

I like slow contemplative movies. I love neo-noir films. These two great tastes together should yield dividends. Instead, it just disappointed.

GEMINI: Greg
Nelson Franklin and his octopus make a point in GEMINI. (Courtesy of Neon)

The pieces are there including smart framing, a gift for dialogue, and some strong performances. The film seems so opposed to action though that it becomes somnambulist. Moments where our adrenaline might kick in — that above-mentioned escape, a late-film twist, a final appearance from Detective Ahn when you think all is wrapped up — instead resolve or just end so quickly your body never realizes it should be worried. It seems allergic to tension.

If you have been hungry for a movie about LA and don’t care for the plot, by all means, take it in. If you are looking for any kind of tension or conflict, this will not scratch that itch.

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