'Gemini' film review: Moody Hollywood thriller is style over substance
The neo-noir crime thriller "Gemini" (opening in additional select cities April 13) has all the hallmarks of a story that was tortuously stretched out to justify its feature film length, but probably would have been better suited as a short film.
In short: A violent crime puts the spotlight on the relationship between personal assistant Jill and her Hollywood starlet boss Heather. Stars Lola Kirke ("Mistress America"), Zoë Kravitz ("Mad Max: Fury Road") and John Cho ("Star Trek").
For a mystery-thriller with a meager runtime of 93 minutes, "Gemini" has a rather slow and winding build up. The first half hour is a meandering night out with a starlet and her assistant - peppered with only one or two notable plot moments that writer-director Aaron Katz too obviously telegraphs as "this will be important for later" moments. The moody, atmospheric first act successfully establishes the relationship between Jill and Heather, but largely leaves the audience wondering "okay, where is this movie going"?
It's only in the second act - which kicks off with a bang - when "Gemini" finally establishes its mystery, finds a narrative direction and moves with any urgency. Despite finding dramatic focus, however, the film is an unnecessarily convoluted tangled ball of plot threads that dead end more often into red herrings than satisfying plot turns. In retrospect, the first act actually drops a ton of breadcrumbs, resulting in numerous possible plot leads that finally develop into plot elements in act two - however, these clues and even some characters are just white noise.
The fact that a mystery includes red herrings isn't a problem in itself - the fact that "Gemini" obviously pads its running time with weird moments affects the film's tone and momentum. A film that is barely an hour and a half should be much more disciplined and focused than "Gemini," a movie that stutter steps its way through the plot. Anytime the film begins to gain any intensity, it drops in wholly unnecessary moments - leading to otherwise integral scenes undermined by trivial minutia.
Jill's possibly illuminating conversation with a potential suspect is stopped dead in its tracks to insert a throwaway line of dialogue about a stuffed octopus. Jill's clandestine tailing of another suspect is likewise interrupted by a chatty bartender whose banter about drink specials adds nothing of value to the scene. "Gemini" is ostensibly a crime mystery thriller, but these irrelevant beats affect the film's tonality, preventing the film from achieving truly taut tension.
The ultimate reveal is a frustrating and barely earned plot turn that is almost eye rolling in its audacity. The script does just enough to make the final twist plausible - but sometimes that's not good enough. At best, the resolution is unsatisfying - at worst, it makes the entire film feel like a waste of time.
For its many narrative missteps, "Gemini" is a striking film in appearance and vibe. It does place Jill in an impossible situation - one where she's forced to solve a mystery before she becomes the prime suspect. The film is very accessible because Kirke's performance is entirely relateable. Jill is not a brilliant detective - she is an everywoman thrown into a winding mystery who tries to untangle all the clues in front of her. Left with a rather meager mystery, "Gemini" leans hard on its mood, clearly designed to intoxicate ... with questionable results.
Final verdict: Visually striking and moody, "Gemini" is tantalizing but not wholly compelling. Stylish but tedious, this thriller meanders too often to truly grip the audience.
"Gemini" is now playing in select cities. This dramatic thriller is unrated and has a running time of 93 minutes.