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by Jay Seaver

3 stars

"Gemini" feels like the idea of a decent movie without much of the interesting detail, as if filmmaker Aaron Katz knew he wanted to do another mystery-influenced film along the lines of "Cold Weather" and was intrigued by the star/assistant dynamic, but overestimated how this sort of Hollywood story would appeal to outsiders by a lot. It looks good and sets a mood, but it comes perilously close to just being an outline with slick reference pictures, not something worthwhile on its own.

It starts out with Jill LeBeau (Lola Kirke), personal assistant to actress Heather Anderson (Zoe Kravitz), switching between phones in her car, fielding calls for her employer. Heather's ex Devin (Reeve Carney) is the first to say he's going to kill her over some slight, but not the last, as Heather sends Jill into a meeting to drop out of a movie for her. As that film's producer (Nelson Franklin) storms out, a fan (Jessica Parker Kennedy) shows up, asking if Heather and Jill are really as close as the rumors claim, along with an annoying paparazzo (James Ransone). There will be a few more stops that night - Jill's place, K-town karaoke with Heather's maybe-girlfriend Tracy Kim (Greta Lee), and then to Heather's. Jill's got an early meeting the next day - not satisfied with bailing on her next film, Heather doesn't want to do reshoots on the current one - and she returns to a crime scene. Detective Edward Ahn (John Cho) initially treats Jill as a witness, figuring she remembers details better than most, but she's soon the prime suspect and looking to figure it out on her own.

This is the sort of movie where the title seems like it gives the whole game away, although the one that it apparently started out with ("Heart Heather") isn't a whole lot better. That's not necessarily a big deal, since the solution to the mystery does not seem to be what's actually important - but if it isn't, then what is? Katz never really finds an answer to that. There are some vague thoughts about the demands of celebrity and the privilege of wealth and fame, but they're not exactly new and structuring the movie as a whodunit keeps Katz from diving in to look very closely lest he give things away too soon or stretch the story too far past its climax. That rich folks can be flaky and not realize the consequences of their changes of mind on those around them isn't much to hang even such a relatively short film on.

He does capture some interesting moments and gets some great shots, at least. You can feel the sort of movie he wants to make in a scene of Jill riding a motorcycle with the sun rising in the background, a jazzy soundtrack by Keegan DeWitt behind her; it's slick and right on the border of "neo-noir" and "film blanc". It's fun to contrast the amorphous space of Jill's apartment with the architecture of rich folks like Heather and Tracy, where exposed beams and parallel accents in otherwise open spaces call back to a Hitchcock/Bass atmosphere, even if they never got to echo that with a less-tony producer's collection of classic NES cartridges. There's a solid atmosphere here, and it's fun to see Katz play with the form at times, as Ahn discussing why Jill may be a useful witness foreshadows a much more obvious bit about how mystery movies work. They're ornaments, though, stylish and clever bits that seldom expose more about the movie.

It's a nice cast, though. Lola Kirke makes a compelling fugitive/sleuth even when there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of reason for her to be one, backing up the detail-oriented nature that other characters talk about while also showing that, yes, this sort of thing hits her personally. Zoe Kravitz does a nice job of underplaying the flighty star who could have been a cliche; she can make Heather a bit of an oblivious pain in the neck without making the audience truly dislike her, or think less of Jill for staying in her orbit. As with any movie with John Cho in a non-starring role, one wins up wanting a lot more John Cho, it's fun to watch him play the audience the same way Ahn plays Jill, projecting sincerity but also just enough cunning to make a body a little suspicious. He at least fares better than Michelle Forbes, not even around long enough to be a good red herring.

The epilogue seems to sum it up, with the characters seeming like they have something to say but struggling to put it in specific terms (though the background dynamics are kind of interesting). The audience will likely feel the same way when the credits roll - that it seems like the right place to stop, and it wasn't really a bad journey to get there, but that it does seem like more should have been accomplished along the way.

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originally posted: 04/10/18 03:16:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2017 AFI Fest For more in the 2017 AFI Fest series, click here.

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