Gemini is the type of film that desperately needs you to know you're in an inverted reality, a psychedelic funhouse where everything's filtered through neon pink.
Aaron Katz's Gemini—a neon whodunnit starring Lola Kirke (Jill), a do-good amanuensis who works for Heather (Zoe Kravitz), a rising actress and A-list celebrity that's recently split from her boyfriend—is visually provocative and stylish, and, dare I say, the big sister film to Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers. Is there a genre specifically dedicated to neon-lit L.A murder mysteries, tales of young adults indulging celebrity and not living to tell their stories, or are we just calling it millennial noir?
The cool indigo, bubblegum pink, sultry purple shades of Gemini certainly set the noir tones, and cinematographer Andrew Reed does a good job of capturing the palm trees and twenty-somethings in an enigmatic light. But the most mysterious thing about Gemini is just how long each actress can idly stare into oblivion before the camera focuses in on another palm tree. And there are plenty of voyeur scenes, along with tracking shots of Jill walking up steps.
Gemini is the type of film that desperately needs you to know you're in an inverted reality, a psychedelic funhouse where everything's filtered through neon pink. When Jill isn't walking up steps, she's watching Heather eat Chinese food and strut around gorgeous, albeit over-staged bachelor pads, or she's critiquing hashtags on Instagram and, later, solving a murder mystery. In the spirit of millennial noir, Gemini has its moments, but its momentum is largely built from its own fascination with aestheticism: the way a single shot can evoke a particular mood without offering additional exposition.
And like any good murder mystery, the film is aware of its inner workings, densely atmospheric and serving meta-commentary on how mystery films heighten tension and encourage voyeurism: one good party scene where resident cool girl Zoe Kravitz looks longingly into the void; a dreamy Lola Kirke staring at said party girl; a few scenes that set up the central conflict; and a twist ending where (surprise!) the culprit is not who'd you expect.
A post-mumblecore offering, the film almost feels like it could be a Lifetime drama or TV movie and, oddly enough, it works. Katz is very good at making cheap stories feel evocative and stirring, and Gemini benefits from the plastic-y script, with dialogue that is both lazy and culturally present. Kravitz delivers a serviceable performance, but naturally, the cool girl act is minimalistic, and Kirke, a rising actress in her own right, amps up the sleepy, melancholic vibes she showed in Mistress America. All of the actors, however, including John Cho as detective Edward and Greta Lee as a standoffish publicist, are undercooked, like avatars in a party app simulator.
Largely portraying the style of rich twenty-somethings that are more well-off than they realize, the film is, again, tonally similar to other L.A. satirical whodunits, like Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring. Fame is L.A.'s strongest drug, and watching Jill expose herself to its effect is chilling enough to make up for all the other scenes where Kravitz is cued to bat her eyelashes. A stylish and sleek addition to Katz's brand of mumblecore, Gemini will leave you with an inkling to buy a Polaroid camera and get shots of those palm trees for yourself, but that's about it.
POP⚡DUST Score: ⚡⚡⚡
Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.
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