It’s no surprise that writer-director Aaron Katz cut his teeth in the long out-of-vogue filmmaking school of mumblecore. His latest work, Gemini, is the obvious end result of mumblecore growing up. It’s got all the earmarks of the style, with its languid pacing and mundane dialogue that’s supposed to pass as the last authority in realism. But, for the sake of box office or boredom, the DNA of mumblecore has been injected into a nicer budget and the world of genre with Gemini, a would-be thriller that’s maybe the most banal thing I’ve sat through in ages.
The idea here is to make a modernized sort of LA noir (complete with a languid sax score layered over electronic beats), with personal assistant Jill (Lola Kirke) running from the cops and trying to track down the murderer of her best friend and employer, actress Heather (Zoe Kravitz). Sounds tantalizing, right? The problem is, for a thriller, nothing ever really happens. Sure, there are tons of suspects as Heather had a lot of people angry at her, including an ex-boyfriend (Reeve Carney) and a jilted filmmaker (Nelson Franklin, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World). But none of them are interesting or nefarious.
And this is one of the film’s biggest flaws. For a thriller, there’s no tension. The dialogue is clumsy and amateurish, making for a movie that shoehorns in a lot of daft humor. Sometimes it wants to be silly and serious, while never striking a proper balance. The motivations for everyone — especially Jill — are nonexistent, and their decision-making is even worse. I understand that without these nonsensical decisions there would be no movie (though after sitting through it, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing). Since the film doesn’t have any narrative thrust, there’s a lot of time to pick apart how the characters are acting in the most idiotic ways possible.
At the same time, there’s no way for the film to build sympathy for any characters, especially Jill, who’s supposed to be the emotional center of it all. In Gemini‘s search for a flimsy sort of realism, the audience is just plopped into the middle of the people’s lives, as characters wander in an out with no real effort put into creating an understanding of who or what they’re doing in this film. There’s nothing to latch onto, whether it’s the characters on screen or the toothless plot their wandering through. It all just sits there, with zero cleverness or style, making for one of the most listless movies I’ve ever experienced. Rated R for pervasive language, and a violent image.
Now playing at the Fine Arts Theatre.