‘Gemini’: A Riveting Neo-Noir Tribute to Female Friendship
Filmmaker Aaron Katz’s new Los Angeles murder-mystery, starring Lola Kirke and Zoe Kravitz, is well worth your time.
The tempo of a film can be difficult to nail down. Often, the compulsion is to rush. Hopefully, moving things along at a clip will more readily keep an audience’s attention, or so the thought goes. It’s not a gambit that always works—easing off the gas and allowing a story unfurl at its own pace isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success, either. That Aaron Katz sets his own rhythm with Gemini is part of what makes it so special.
Lola Kirke stars as Jill LeBeau, assistant to Hollywood starlet Heather Anderson, played by Zoë Kravitz. They seem to be close friends in addition to employee and employer, yet with a title like Gemini, there’s more to the story than meets the eye.
After a strange fan encounter, a threatening call from her ex-boyfriend, and a falling out with a director, Heather asks to borrow Jill’s gun. Though Jill initially refuses, she relents when Heather confesses that she feels like she’s in constant danger, citing it as part of the reason she wants to (at least temporarily) quit the film business. Not too long afterward, Heather is found murdered, with Jill’s gun—bearing only Jill’s and Heather’s fingerprints—next to her body.
Gemini is cut from neo-noir cloth, following in the footsteps of some of the best in the genre by placing a perfectly ordinary person, Jill, at the center of an extraordinary situation, and leaving her to navigate her way out. Her life has taken a turn for the surreal with the murder of her friend, and when she becomes the prime suspect in the investigation, things only get stranger.
The unraveling mystery is captivating, to be sure—especially when John Cho shows up as a detective whose friendly demeanor is just a bit too knowing—but the real charm of Gemini is in the moments we get between Kirke and Kravitz. Any instance of seeing female friendships depicted so tenderly is special; I think most of us have lived through the moment in which Jill says she’ll protect Heather, even as she’s falling asleep (“I can protect you with my eyes closed”), or the moment where they dream about the projects they want to collaborate on together. Their chemistry is so easy that it’s almost impossible not to believe that they haven’t been friends for ages, and only makes the film’s denouement land all the more heavily.
The rest of the cast is terrific, too, though they’re ultimately all means to an end (including Cho). James Ransone is great as always as a desperate paparazzo, and Michelle Forbes and Jessica Parker Kennedy show up as Heather’s agent and super-fan, respectively.
But Gemini is Kirke’s show.
It’s to Katz’s credit that, despite how strange the story becomes, Jill is always based in some sense of reality. She’s not unequipped to deal with her circumstances yet she’s no private eye, handling it about as well as anyone really could, and her moments of clumsiness aren’t played as excuses to take her any less seriously. The effect of this focus on her character focuses the narrative itself: The whodunit is less interesting than the excavation of Jill and Heather’s friendship, and what we come to learn about them as the mystery progresses.
Were this a meatier film, it’d be interesting to pick apart concerning its reflection of the film industry as well as the nature of celebrity—perhaps it’s something Katz will explore in later films—but as it is, Gemini is a slim volume. I mean this in the best way possible: It sets out to do one thing, to deliver a compelling mystery, and it succeeds. Even more impressively, as mentioned before, it does it on its own terms.
The spare melancholy-jazz score, composed by Keegan DeWitt, helps to keep the tone of the film grounded even as Jill spirals further afield. Katz never rushes, with stretches of the film devoted simply to making sure that the characters get where they need to go instead of jumping from one scene to another. Some viewers might want the mystery to get solved as quickly as possible, though these beats never feel superfluous or as if Katz is stalling for time.
The film’s ending is likely to leave some viewers wanting more, but Gemini is so naturally constructed that anything more storybook would feel like a disservice. It’s less about the plot and more about the relationship at its center, after all. Anchored by terrific performances and a mesmerizing visual style, Katz’s latest feature will have you mulling it over long after the credits have rolled.