Hollywood starlet Heather Anderson (Zoe Kravitz) has just broken up with her celebrity boyfriend Devin (Reeve Carney) and decided not to make the movie everyone expects her to, from her agent to her publicist to the studio. She grabs personal assistant Jill (Lola Kirke) to party away the stress, but first they take a gun “just in case the fans get ugly.”
What at first seems like a girls-only episode of Entourage grows more mysterious as the night goes on. Heather has been hiding the fact she has a girlfriend, Tracy (Greta Lee) — a secret only Jill shares. But did someone sneak a photo of a stolen kiss between them? Is someone outside Heather’s home, stalking her?
From its washed-blue aura to its moody jazz score and woozy romantic malaise, Gemini harkens stylistically to the crime dramas of the 1980s — Tequila Sunrise, American Gigolo, Stormy Monday, Manhunter — not just coincidentally, but with a knowing appreciation for Hollywood history. It may ooze Miami Vice, but it winks at Inherent Vice (P.T. Anderson’s comedic detective story of SoCal), as well as Chinatown (catch the scene set near a koi pond!), Sunset Boulevard, The Player and a host of other films that critique the culture of Tinseltown.
That is the film’s blessing and its curse. Writer-director Aaron Katz throws tons of allusions at the screen — eyegasms for cinephiles, but a bit of a goulash from a storytelling perspective. The gun introduced in Act 1 doesn’t take until Act 3 to be used, per Chekhov’s dictum, but triggers much of the mystery, that sets off Jill to investigate and protect herself from the suspicious eye of a detective (John Cho). The cool blue photography gets grittier, the plot more predictably linear, the twists less believable. But just when Gemini feels — as the title suggests — of two minds, it ties up its elements with scathing commentary about the nature of celebrity, and how ultimately L.A. is a company town… maybe not as elegantly as Chinatown and The Player, but no less clearly.
This is the largest role of any meat I’ve seen Kravitz take on, and she so recalls her mother, Lisa Bonet, that you can’t escape the echoes to Angel Heart as well, but her funky, distracted millennialism is put to effective use. Kirke herself looks a lot like a cross between Maggie Gyllenhaal and Zoe Deschanel — again, perhaps a nod to the title, but also a hint that assistants one day could just as easily be movie stars the next … with the right publicity. Her performance is uneven, but in the end, Gemini works despite its flaws as a hip modern morality tale, part of an admirable tradition of films noir that look in the mirror.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
Opens Friday at the Angelika Mockingbird Station. Look for reviews of A Quiet Place, Isle of Dogs and Final Portrait tomorrow.