Gemini review Lola Kirke Zoe KravitzYear: 2017
Director(s): Aaron Katz
Writer(s): Aaron Katz
Region of Origin: US

Rating: R
Color, 93 mins

Synopsis: A heinous crime tests the complex relationship between a tenacious personal assistant and her Hollywood starlet boss.  (Source)

Aaron Katz’s Gemini is a gripping neo-noir with a bit more up its sleeve. In the best way, it sneaks up on us, playing to genre strengths only to make us realize that its central mystery is about something else entirely. Rather than simply being a whodunnit, this beautifully photographed Los Angeles travelogue features a relationship rarely seen on screen, pulling back the curtain of celebrity and thrusting us into a do-or-die hunt for the truth. Along the way, the film navigates the consequences of hero worship and the pressure to live up to the public’s constantly shifting ideals. All of this is very subtle and cleverly played, however, and Katz’s sense of rhythm, stylistic flourishes and a bit of self-aware humor are more than worth a viewing in their own. What’s more, star Lola Kirke is mesmerizing, embodying the story’s complexity within a fun exercise elevated by its humane attention to detail.

Heather Anderson (Zoe Kravitz) is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. When things kick off, she’s in a state of flux, clearly exhausted and in need of a break. She’s about to turn down a project created specifically for her, and mounting pressure from professional and personal acquaintances have her on edge. Then there’s the issue of death threats, which may or may not be meaningless. Enter Jill (Lola Kirke), Heather’s personal assistant. Jill takes her job seriously, but it goes beyond professional courtesy. Her and Heather share a rare type of bond, with the former acting as a protector of sorts from the relentless demands of directors, PR agents and studio suits, while also serving as confidant and friend. This perfect mixture of personal and professional attachment is what sends Jill’s into a tailspin after she discovers Heather’s bullet-ridden body. Eyed by a persistent detective (John Cho), Jill unwittingly becomes a fugitive racing to clear her name.

Like any good mystery, Katz’s film is constantly evolving and shifting just when things start to settle. The reason it all works, is because Katz builds a strong base and allows the plot to escalate on its own terms. About the first third of the plot evokes a fly-on-the-wall approach, taking us through a night in Jill and Heather’s world. It begins with a stressful decision, a terse phone call and an odd fan encounter, but gradually evolves into a night that allows both to let their guard down, if only for a few hours. Somewhere in the middle, Heather airs out some unsaid fears and a sisterly bond is brought to light. After Heather’s found dead, the film swings into something else entirely, following Jill around town as she meets with possible suspects and tries to stay one step ahead of the police. Everything eventually dovetails into the inevitable truth, which we may see coming, but still makes an emotional impact nevertheless. It’s here where the story’s true motives come into focus, leaving us with answers and a set of questions we couldn’t have seen coming.

Gemini review Lola Kirke stillThough performances from Zoe Kravitz, John Cho and even a bit role from James Ransone make a mark, this is Lola Kirke’s film through and through. Kirke takes us through the initially unassuming story, transforming throughout and coming out the other end in a way that lends nuance and depth. It’s her chemistry with Kravitz that draws us into this dreamlike world, making all the difference when she’s forced to fend for herself. She also has a natural charm about her, and the entire thing is believable because we feel that she could be anyone, despite being caught up in some extraordinary circumstances.

Even without its socially astute statements on women within Hollywood, Gemini has plenty of style and excitement to spare. It isn’t an action-laden film, but one lined with a constant sense of energy and understated unease, continually drenched in neon and unfolding like a hazy waking dream. And while the ending feels a little too neat at first, it easily takes a stronger hold the more we think about it, earning the journey that led up to it. From Kirke’s lead performance, to a story that feels timeless and modern, Katz captures a town that’s teeming with vibrancy even if it can also feel lonely, isolated and confusing at the same time. It’s a worthy contribution towards a genre that doesn’t get enough love.

SG