In the haunting thriller Gemini, director Aaron Katz criticizes celebrity culture in a modern iteration of the film noir genre.
Gemini is hypnotic, set against a beautiful Los Angeles backdrop, while also mocking the big egos and unnecessary drama of the Hollywood film industry.
The film begins as director Greg (Nelson Franklin) screams that he’s going to kill famous actress Heather (Zoe Kravitz) because she’s decided not to star in his upcoming film, which has been five years in the making.
Jill (Lola Kirke) is Heather’s personal assistant, and also happens to be her best friend. Their dynamic consists of a complex co-dependency that blurs the boundaries of friendship and professionalism, and in which Jill does the dirty work for Heather: standing up to intrusive paparazzi and telling Greg that Heather will opt out of certain film roles. Yet at the same time, they have sleepovers and karaoke and the roles are reversed when Heather prevents an intoxicated Jill from driving them home. Their delicate relationship is put to the test when Jill finds herself as the primary suspect of a crime, she sets out to find the true criminal and solve the mystery. Kirke and Kravitz elevate this unique friendship through their performances,
Gemini also pokes fun at the indulgence and self-involvement of celebrities and in Hollywood culture, without failing to provide thoughtful commentary about the absurdity of the film industry, crazed fans, and paparazzi.
At one point, a character speculates as to who might have perpetrated the crime by thinking about how the story would have developed in a fictional script. However, while watching the movie, it is easy to forget about the criticism underlying the gripping plot of the story, especially as one follows Jill in her journey as she collects clues about the murder. She acts as a fugitive and a detective at the same time, and the movie is paced perfectly in terms of when she finds a potential hint. Katz manages to carry the movie’s suspense until it unravels, drowning our senses in mesmerizing frames from the LA streets.
Critics have largely called Gemini a neo-noir, but its color palette differs from many movies in the genre. Gemini establishes a counterintuitive color palette of neons, pastels and shades of gray, which sets an eerie tone that sustains the movie’s mysterious atmosphere. The gender dynamics of the leads provides another interesting revision to genre conventions, as casting two young female protagonists chucks at the traditional stoic detective trope. Moreover, Gemini exhibits some self-aware humor which lightens the mood. The humor also grants Jill and Heather a bit more depth as characters, and prevents them from being dismissed as stock characters or cutting into the pace.
Overall, the numerous ways in which Gemini unapologetically subverts the genre adds to its the heavy, enveloping atmosphere. While the ending might have needed a bit more space for the effect to sink in, Gemini does not disappoint.