Review: Aaron Katz’s ‘Gemini’ perfectly captures contemporary L.A. noir
A moody noir pop-up, “Gemini” is writer/director Aaron Katz’s alluring, self-reflexive Los Angeles-set mystery that also doubles as a pictorial mash note to the city’s gleaming spaces and dreaming inhabitants.
At the crux of its titular duality is a showbiz relationship of commonality and convenience between young starlet Heather (Zoë Kravitz), pursued by social media followers and professional/romantic suitors in various stages of neediness, and her assistant Jill (Lola Kirke), whose duties include handler, companion and sleepover confidante. When the pair’s work/play night of angering a flustered director (Nelson Franklin) and drunken karaoke with Heather’s secret squeeze (Greta Lee) ends with the morning discovery of a bullet-riddled body, Jill becomes a prime suspect in the eyes of a patient, dogged detective (John Cho).
While Jill’s mission to uncover the truth leans into tense turns, oddball twists and scenic moods, Katz (“Cold Weather,” “Land Ho!”) enriches the well-established glossary of Southern California noir with a richly textured palette (courtesy cinematographer Andrew Reed) of colors and tones beyond the typical signposts of slick affluence, abetted nicely by Keegan DeWitt’s atmospheric soundtrack of trance-like beats and nostalgic snatches of mournful horns.
You sense the messier aesthetics of Katz’s mumblecore origins have fallen away to reveal a born alchemist of story and imagery — in its arresting visual tour of L.A.’s groovy neighborhoods and rich hideaways, “Gemini” captures a secret, abiding and even menacing melancholy behind its oft-regarded surfaces.
And with his soulful, close-up-ready female leads, Katz finds performance power, too. Kravitz nails the peculiar precocity of an internet-age idol, while Kirke quickly earns our sympathy as a brunette indie heroine turned blond-dyed — and eventually leather-clad and motorbike-riding — amateur sleuth. “Gemini” may be the ideal Instagram-era genre flick: an identity thriller about advantage and escape that swipes left and right with cool, calculated authority.
Rating: R, for pervasive language and a violent image
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: AMC Century City; ArcLight Hollywood
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