By Leah Greenblatt
March 26, 2018 at 09:00 AM EDT
NEON

Gemini

type
  • Movie
genre

There’s a scene midway through writer-director Aaron Katz’s new thriller where two characters discuss the possible suspects in the murder of a beautiful young actress named Heather Anderson (played by the beautiful young actress Zoë Kravitz). It could, they speculate, be the skeevy ex-boyfriend (Reeve Carney), or maybe a crazed fan. It could also be either of the people standing there discussing her death; one of them, after all, is a filmmaker whose dream project Heather effectively just killed, and the other is her assistant and best friend Jill (Lola Kirke), who had both the means and opportunity, if not necessarily a clear motive.

Though they’re talking about someone they both knew and at least one of them presumably loved, their tone is as casually matter-of-fact as coworkers breaking down last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. It’s as if the whole conversation happens in air quotes, another meta byproduct of modern life. And that’s the problem with Gemini, a heavily atmospheric neo-noir that starts with real promise but eventually crumbles into silliness. The movie seems to be aiming for something between modern Hitchcock and Raymond Chandler, and instead ends up feeling like what would happen if Urban Outfitters had its own film studio, or the CW remade Clouds of Sils Maria.

As the movie opens, it becomes clear that the lines between work and personal blurred a long time ago for Heather and Jill. Jill does all the things Heather doesn’t want to, like run errands, screen her calls, and inform oversensitive auteurs that she doesn’t want to make their movies. Jill lives in the kind of anonymous L.A. apartment any twentysomething post-grad with a little parental help might rent; Heather’s place looks like Marrakech just landed in Laurel Canyon. But they also spend drunk, huggy hours singing karaoke in Koreatown bars and crashing in the same bed. Jill even lets Heather borrow the gun she picked up on a movie set, a prop to hold on to for her own peace of mind.

Maybe you can see where this going. The prop has bullets, the gun goes off, and suddenly Jill is a prime suspect. John Cho (Star Trek: Beyond), as a cooly appraising detective assigned to the case, shows up just long enough to make you wish his role was bigger and his lines were a little bit better. But it mostly becomes Kirke’s movie, and though she has a compelling, naturalistic presence (see Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle), she can’t really justify why Jill immediately goes out and gets a bad blonde dye job, buys a burner phone, and starts creeping around like Encyclopedia Brown. If the point is to throw the police off the scent, she’s doing it wrong. If it’s to crack the case, she’s definitely not doing it legally.

Katz (Land Ho!, Cold Weather) seems to have something interesting to say about the parasitic relationship between celebrities, their helpers, and the motley Hollywood vampires (agents, paparazzi, overreaching superfans) that surround them, but he never quite works out what that is. Or maybe he doesn’t really want to; eventually, those ideas get lost somewhere in the pretty surfaces, and Gemini just floats away — all style and and mood, signifying not much. C+

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Gemini

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