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A kaleidoscopic neo-noir, Gemini is a visually striking murder mystery with a convoluted but largely compelling plot and an impressive showing from Lola Kirke. Read critic reviews
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Detective Edward Ahn
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Audience Reviews for Gemini
Jul 01, 2018Dear reader, I want you to know upfront that I'm writing this review for one major purpose, and that is to complain about its ending. Had this movie ended differently, I probably would have simply postponed writing about it. Then writer/director Aaron Katz (Land Ho!) went with his ending, and now we need to talk about Gemini, a neo-noir set in the world of movie stars, paparazzi, and sycophantic hangers-on in the city of angels. The beginning thirty minutes do a fine job of establishing a world and perspective. We follow the day-to-day of Jill (Lola Kirke), a personal assistant to a popular actress, Heather Anderson (Zoe Kravitz). She deals with pushy directors, invasive press, and boundary-blurring fan interactions. She's Heather's support and one of her best friends. Katz does a very effective job of establishing Jill's world of responsibilities as well as her confusing sense of where she fits in this equation. Is she more hired-help or BFF? Heather backs out of a movie and talks about starting her own production company, with Jill and her developing projects that appeal to them. That night, Heather is fearful that someone has been following her and asks for a gun. Jill gives her one, loading the bullets. The next day, Jill comes back to Heather's palatial home and finds her dead on the floor and the growing realization that she is the number one suspect (her fingerprints are on the gun). That's the first third of the movie and it works well. Katz's screenplay slowly builds, organically establishing the complicated world of Jill and her general sense of being an outsider wherever she goes. Once the murder takes place, Gemini becomes more recognizable with its film noir elements, as Jill adopts a disguise and investigates a series of suspects that could have killed the starlet, including the director she spurned and an old boyfriend who has trouble letting go. This is also where Katz introduces a new threat in the presence of Detective Edward Ahn (John Cho). He's a calm, empathetic man but he always seems to know more than he lets on, asking probing questions that Jill doesn't feel comfortable answering. Each new trip to a suspect presents a different mood and aim. Jill's visit with the director becomes a humorous sit-down where the guy theorizes who is guilty if it were a movie, finally concluding it would probably be Jill as a twist. Jill infiltrates the ex-boyfriend's hotel room and has to avoid detection and it is an efficient small-scale suspense sequence. All the while the detective appears to be circling something. The are several merits of Katz's film that are worth mentioning. The acting is generally good all around, especially from Kirke (Gone Girl, Amazon's Mozart in the Jungle). She's a natural screen presence while still radiating a sense of relatability. There's a lot going on behind those saucer-eyes of hers and I wish the movie served her better by the end. Kravtiz (Rough Night) and Cho (Star Trek Beyond) are both unpredictable in different ways, making the audience glean extra subtleties from their guarded performances. The sleek cinematography by Andrew Reed (Cold Weather) deals in cool teals and purples, creating a hazy, 1980s-esque atmosphere without becoming annoying omnipresent like in a Nicolas Refn film. It's style without being eaten alive by it (Neon Demon broadside?). The musical score by Keegan DeWitt (Hearts Beat Loud) is suitably moody, working in typical noir elements like brass instruments with a modern ambient sensibility. Under Katz's direction, the movie has fun with introducing classic noir tropes and giving them a twist, as well as diverting from them, like our heroine being an ordinary outsider. And now comes the part where I must discuss the ending to Gemini and, in doing so, will spoil the movie significantly. If you'd like to continue reading and understand the bulk of my grievance, please proceed ahead with spoilers. This has served as your warning, dear reader. As the film is nearing its end, it looks like Heather's secret bisexual fling is being presented as the most likely candidate. The two of them were caught smooching by a late-night paparazzi and this could present some career problems. Jill sneaks away from the supposed lion's den and heads out to a cabin in the California woods, the spot the fling was talking to. She enters the cabin and finds... Heather there alive and well. You see the dead body in Heather's home was not her but the super eager fan they had encountered earlier, a look-alike made more obscured with parts of her brain missing. Apparently Heather killed her because she was stalking her and she feared for her life, or so she says. She hid out and waited for everything to die down. Jill is understandably very angry especially since she became the prime suspect. Heather is sorry but not that sorry. Do the crime scene investigators not take fingerprints? Blood samples? I'm uncertain of the timeline of Gemini but this fake-out could only last a couple days, charitably. It creates suspicion that there's more than Heather is willingly admitting. This sets up an exclusive interview with a big journalist, the first point in re-branding Heather after the news came out, and trying to push the narrative in the direction they want. Then all of a sudden Detective Ahn shows up at the taping and asks if he can watch as a favor. Jill considers this, confirming the case is closed, and allows it. All right, it's at this point where all the major players are together in a crucible of secrets. Something good is going to happen, because why else bring these characters together in this moment? And then as the interview begins and Katz's camera slowly pans over to the L.A. skyline and slowly zooms in, and this is where I started yelling at my screen. This is not an ending. This is five minutes away from an ending. The comeuppance of a starlet thinking she can get away with anything and put upon her vulnerable and faithful assistant is all set. The instincts of our wily detective will be proven right. Jill will have become a stronger character, able to suss out the truth and cut off a destructive force. Justice will be had, the truth will come out, and it will feel like a natural climax of the entire 90-minute movie. And then none of that happens. Nothing happens. It's all setup and then the L.A. skyline (end spoilers). Gemini is a frustrating movie with good acting, a dash of style, and some potently moody moments to tickle a neo-noir enthusiast. Until the ending. I was flabbergasted. Katz delivered a cop-out of an ending, and subsequently makes his overall film one that I don't even think I can recommend, even to neo-noir acolytes. Gemini, I wrote this review because of your ending and I'm still waiting on one. I'll be here if you need me. Nate's Grade: CNate Z Super Reviewer
Jun 29, 2018Well I can see why Gemini wasn't very high on the distribution list for production company Neon despite the trailer playing in front of a lot of other limited release movies earlier this year. Just like last year's Beach Rats, it's pretty to look at, but rather hollow. Style is something I'll gladly give a filmmaker the benefit of the doubt over as it is simply a different path up the mountain of storytelling, and Aaron Katz' neon-noir has just as much purple and 808 hi-hats as one would have expected. The film makes Los Angeles look even prettier than it actually is without sacrificing the post-millenial malaise of the town, and some of these shots are almost beautiful enough to make up for the patchy performances or a very disappointing third act. Zoe Kravitz and Lola Kirke aren't bad actresses, and with better dialogue the film could have started off a bit more interesting. After a lighthearted introductory section, the characters start to gel and there's some genuine chemistry between the two leads. Then there's the dead body, and the second act kicks into high gear classic noir style. Kirke goes into detective mode complete with disguises and gumshoe tip-toeing, and there's a compelling enough murder mystery afoot. It's just too bad that after the twist it all seems a bit mundane and nebulous, as in, a lot of build up for no pay off. It feels as though the movie was stretched thin because of budgetary restrictions as the moral and emotional repercussions of the third act would have left plenty of room to get to the point which, I think, would have had something to do with "How far will you go for friendship?" As the movie stands, it seems to just point out how empty friendship (or symbiosis) can be in LA and the movie industry. If that is the point, it doesn't take 90 minutes to make that clear. So when you get down to it, the best parts of the film are the long padding scenes of pans and tracking shots as the script doesn't have much heft to it. It's worth a rental (or streaming) for the aesthetic alone.K Nife C Super Reviewer
Mar 31, 2018BASICALLY, IT STINKS - My Review of GEMINI (2 Stars) When I saw the trailer for the new film, GEMINI, it came across like a lurid 90s-style thriller in the same vein as BASIC INSTINCT. It didn't draw me in, but when I noticed a high rating on ROTTEN TOMATOES, I couldn't resist. Then I saw it, and yep, it's a lurid 90's-style thriller but without its predecessor's delicious blend of over-the-top carnality and real thrills. Yes, it's stylish as hell and has some interesting things to say about Hollywood, the closet, and what friendship means to self-absorbed narcissists, but people behave so stupidly in this poorly thought-out story, that I had a hard time taking any of it seriously. Written and directed by Aaron Katz, the film stars Zoe Kravitz (BIG LITTLE LIES) as Heather, a famous movie star who, as the film opens, asks her assistant Jill (Lola Kirke of MOZART IN THE JUNGLE) to do the dirty work of entering a café and telling the director on her latest project (VEEP and BLACKISH actor Nelson Franklin doing solid work here) that she's pulling out of it. Shot beautifully by cinematographer Andrew Reed, the opening images alone, of upside down palm trees, nicely sets the stage for its skewed vision of a soul-dead Los Angeles. Moreover, the first act does a truly terrific job of setting up the relationship dynamics between the two. Kravitz nails her sweet, lonely, needy character who knows exactly how to get what she wants, while Kirke's assistant has the sturdy presence of someone highly organized yet who still lives frugally. The film does well by showing their two different environments so that it makes sense when Jill prefers sleeping on Heather's couch than in her own bed, as it allows her to temporarily live the luxurious life. All in all, it's a good setup, filled with a lot of people being pissed off by Heather or outright stalking her. [MILD SPOILER ALERT] Of course, we wouldn't have a thriller if somebody didn't end up dead, so it's no big surprise when Jill finds Heather shot to death one morning. As the owner of the gun that killed her, Jill naturally comes under suspicion by Homicide Detective Edward Ahn (a wasted and bored looking John Cho). Instead of cooperating, however, Jill makes one bone-headed decision after another. This includes wearing a terrible blonde wig and sunglasses that are 10 steps inferior to the Bobbi character in DRESSED TO KILL. She also has a stupid habit of entering rooms alone in which she doesn't belong. Hasn't she seen EVERY THRILLER EVER MAD??!!! [END MILD SPOILER] After the inciting incident, which seems to come really late into the film, the story becomes preposterous. Our protagonist doesn't allow the police to do their job, and inexplicably takes it upon herself to play Nancy Drew, albeit with the worst disguise I've ever seen. It's shot really well, but motivations and reveals remain hazy throughout. I know this movie has something to say, but the thriller elements don't deliver, and its message gets muddled by characters who don't seem to think anything through. It needs more pulp, but opts to meander and duff its ending. It's a shame, because I like these actors. James Ransone, Greta Lee and Reeve Carney add just the right amount of LA sleaze factor to the whole affair, but it all feels Michelle Forbes and Ricki Lake make too-quick cameos that have zero impact, and as much as I liked Franklin's turn as the abandoned director, he has a ridiculous monologue in which he lays out all of the suspects for us. I would have rather played CLUE.
Aug 20, 2017My very last MIFF screening was something I very much was curious about but never held in high regard especially compared to the various other films I saw. In a way, 'Gemini' is a film that's just 'fine', nothing too special, but well, made, written, acted, directed, edited, casted, etc, etc. Even whilst being a sort of drama set within Hollywood as a murder mystery meets a slight sprinkle of a crime thriller, it doesn't offer much else than what it's offering story-wise. Part of me wanted to like if not admire this film in the high standards it set out to do, but the overall execution which in itself is slow moving in the middle act and in the conclusion feels predictable, but I can't due to those certain flaws alone it paled in comparison to film's I saw it do better. While not overall disappointing, I think it's worth watching for it's passable quality alone. Not enough to attract a huge fan-base though recommendable to be worth it when nothing else it on or could be found on certain streaming services.