Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director: Aaron Katz
Screenwriter: Aaron Katz
Cast: Lola Kirke, Zoe Kravitz, John Cho, Ricki Lake, Greta Lee, Michelle Forbes
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 2/28/18
Opens: March 30, 2018
If you want to be an actor, you must realize that 95% of thespians at any given time are unemployed (or waiting tables). A startling contrast finds that some performers who have done exceptionally well in Hollywood and live in real estate that could rival the beauty of the Taj Mahal desire nothing more than a long break, as does a principal character in “Gemini.” Aaron Katz, whose “Land Ho!” found former brothers-in-law embarking on a road trip through Iceland, now looks into a geographical contrast as well, situating his new movie amid plush Hollywood neighborhoods.
Viewers will likely label the picture a film noir, a genre that at its height found a home in the U.S. during the 1940s and 1950s, the type of film that features hard-boiled, cynical characters, often a detective or gumshoe, and best of all encompasses moral ambiguity. Moral ambiguity is on parade in this dark drama, the night sky often lit up by the flashes of paparazzi cameras particularly during moments celebrities may find embarrassing.
The kind of star represented here is often irritating at best and evoking hatred at worst, even a desire by frustrated people to kill. The pacing is fairly brisk, and even the identity of a dead body can be considered ambiguous. Though this is in part a detective story, the real center is the relationship between a young and beautiful star, Heather Anderson (Zoë Kravitz) and her loyal, if career-climbing assistant Jill (Lola Kirke). Those of us who work with demanding bosses or employers who are regularly threatening to dismiss members of a staff might wonder at the bond enjoyed by assistant and star since they not only work well together but share a co-dependent relationship as best friends. A template for this type of movie might be found in Olivier Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria,” in which a woman, first appearing as a youth, is asked twenty years later to play the role of a deceased star, heading to the Swiss Alps with her assistant to prepare for the task.
After Heather drops her boyfriend Devin (Reeve Carney) as she has a thing for a female model Tracy (Greta Lee), she sends her assistant to take care of the details. When Heather also decides not to do a movie to which she had committed, she frustrates Greg, the director (Nelson Franklin) and her agent Jamie (Michelle Forbes). When Jill asks to borrow her assistant’s revolver—she feels unsafe after an aggressive fan-girl forces her way to their table at a coffee shop demanding a photo together with the actress. As Chekhov said, if you see a gun in act one it will be used in act three. A homicide with the gun brings in detective Edward Ahn (John Cho), who uses his charm to manipulate Jill into a confession (her fingerprints are on the gun). The plot winds down to a denouement that is too rushed to be credible, but the film scores thematically in its look at the need of even the most celebrated actress to depend on a deep friendship with others, in this case her assistant.
The majestic buildings on display, particularly a Moroccan villa that could have housed a caliph, could fool an unsophisticated person into thinking that all it takes to buy one is to hang out with producers are advised that a small fraction of one percent of actors are able to turn their careers into the cash for such splendor.
Unrated. 93 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B