Film Review: GeminiA smart and taut murder mystery that engages from start to finish.
This stylish whodunit from talented writer-director Aaron Katz (Land Ho!) is a patient exercise in plotting. Gemini is only 90 minutes long, but it is in no rush to leave the tarmac or bring us to ground before conditions are propitious.
During the opening setup portion of the film, we spend a good deal of time—none of it wasted—with celebrity personal assistant Jill (Lola Kirke) as she passes what appears to be a typical Hollywood evening with her spoiled and childlike best-friend boss, Heather (Zoë Kravitz). Tonight, Heather is pissing everyone off. Jill is fielding calls from Heather’s furious ex-boyfriend, who is threatening “to kill” the starlet for ditching him for a woman, when she isn’t informing a furious director that Heather is pulling out of his project. The director could just “kill Heather.” Heather knows her agent won’t be too thrilled with her decision either, and sure enough, soon she’s receiving a call from said agent, who, yup, is so furious she could “kill Heather.” A creepy fan who invades Heather’s personal space doesn’t help matters, so when Heather asks Jill for Jill’s gun because she doesn’t feel safe, her request, although dramatic, is not altogether unreasonable.
Jill and Heather booze it up with Heather’s lover at a karaoke bar. A drunken Jill spends the night at Heather’s lavish home, one of those creepy sorts of houses, so beloved by the rich and excessive, where the walls are made entirely of windows. The girls joke and chat. One of the reasons the extended setup in Gemini works so well is the actress’ best-friend chemistry is very real, very endearing, even when Heather is whining, even when Jill is slurring her words. From a plot-driven point of view, it’s necessary to establish the dynamic of their friendship, but their humor and warmth draw you in with them even as you know you are only being lulled in order to make the fall for which you are waiting that much more impactful.
In the morning, Jill accidentally sets off the gun she’s given Heather, but everything’s fine, no one is hurt, only some glass has been shattered. Shaken, Jill heads out for a meeting, in which she is yet again informing someone that Heather will not do what she has promised to do. Returning to Heather’s house, Jill stumbles upon a violent scene that is decidedly not fine.
And now our story gets underway. Jill has become a prime murder suspect (her prints are all over that gun, you know), but she, a celeb-wrangling, former Exeter-attending, motorcycle-driving woman, will not be pinned for what she did not do. While a dogged detective (a terrific John Cho) whose soft-spoken manner is an entertaining front for his cold tenacity, runs his official investigation, Jill does some amateur sleuthing of her own. God knows she has no shortage of angry suspects to sniff around.
The call for us to suspend our disbelief sounds rather loudly as we watch Jill uncover clues and follow leads. Electronic keys to hotel rooms are conveniently “forgotten” where Jill can find them, and sexy motorcycle outfits lie in wait just when she needs them. And yet, none of the stretches demanded of our imagination are quite so egregious as to ruin the fun of the chase.
The perceptive viewer might guess something of the plot twist before it occurs, but it works so well with the “Gemini” theme of the film about one doozy of a co-dependent relationship in our celeb-obsessed world, the surprise matters less than its neat integration with the whole. Is it too neat? Maybe a bit. But without such tidiness the point of the film would be lost, and so, in this instance, narrative efficiency acts in favor of thematic comprehensibility. It works.
Engaging from start to finish, with superb plotting, stylish shots, actors on their game and a classical reference unforcedly invoked for modern commentary, Gemini is a well-made film.
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