Gemini

Gemini

MojibMojib   October 04, 2017  
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Gemini

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2017
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A satisfying mystery usually involves more engagement from various puzzle pieces than the way they fit together, and Aaron Katz’s playful L.A. neo-noir “Gemini” falls right into that tradition. It pits the elements of a scrappy whodunit against the backdrop of film industry satire, keeps us guessing the whole way through, and arrives at a solution that’s beside the point. Revisiting the genre innovations of his 2010 feature “Cold Weather,” Katz delivers another minimalist addition to the canon of shaggy dog detective stories stretching back to “The Long Goodbye,” filtered through his own indelible poetic gaze.

Although Katz unveiled “Gemini” at South by Southwest (the same film festival that effectively “discovered” him 11 years earlier with “Dance Party, USA”), this sleek and playful identity puzzler would have been right at home at Sundance (which screened his last, the Iceland-set “Land Ho!”) — or Cannes, for that matter. Despite having been made on modest means (and produced by Adele Romanski, the patron saint of “Moonlight,” among others), “Gemini” is every bit as elegant and stylish as French director Olivier Assayas’ last two movies, “Clouds of Sils Maria” and “Personal Shopper” — and could conceivably do similar business.

As the movie opens, Heather has bailed on boyfriend Devin (Reeve Carney), another celebrity tabloid fixture, in whose swanky Moroccan-style villa she's living, and is deep into a secret relationship with slinky female model Tracy (Greta Lee). Sending Jill to do her dirty work, Heather at the eleventh hour drops out of a feature commitment, making writer-director Greg (Nelson Franklin) insane and her agent Jamie (Michelle Forbes) furious. She's even refusing to do reshoot on a previous project. There's no shortage of pissed off people openly wishing they could kill the elusive Heather.

At certain moments, she proves instinctually capable of evading cops (most notably a detective played by John Cho, whose faux-chummy attitude masks deeper suspicions), while at others, endearingly clumsy trying to mimic tricks seen in Hitchcockian thrillers (as when she blows her cover by not waiting until after confronting the other key suspects to assume her newly-blonde disguise). But the case is more complex than “Gemini’s” deceptively simple setup might suggest, and the title refers to more than just the zodiac tattoo on the back of Heather’s neck: Just how separate is the starlet’s true identity from the one the public adores? Just how close are Jill and Heather? And if the star actually met her soul mate, would the world allow her to indulge a lesbian relationship?

All that happens in a superbly paced first half-hour or so, unfolding most of the way in richly textured nighttime scenes captured by cinematographer Andrew Reed's sinuous camera with splashes of neon color and pools of burnished low-light glow amid the inky blackness. Keegan DeWitt's electro-jazzy score adds to the unsettling effect, communicating from the start that danger pervades the air. Even a boozy moment of reprieve, in which Heather, Jill and Tracy escape reality with some private partying in a K-town karaoke bar, has a surreal, dream quality.
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GEMINI Trailer
GEMINI Trailer

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