D: Aaron Katz / 93m
Cast: Lola Kirke, Zoë Kravitz, Greta Lee, John Cho, Michelle Forbes, Nelson Franklin, Reeve Carney, Jessica Parker Kennedy, James Ransone, Ricki Lake
Jill LeBeau (Kirke) is the personal assistant to famous actress Heather Anderson (Kravitz). Heather has been in talks to make a new movie but has decided to take a break for a while instead. She persuades Jill to tell one of the producers, Greg (Franklin), the news, and he’s predictably angry. Ensuing attention from a self-proclaimed superfan (Kennedy), as well as a paparazzi, Stan (Ransone), adds further stress to Heather’s decision. When Heather asks Jill to borrow her gun because she doesn’t feel “safe”, Jill reluctantly agrees. At Heather’s home one morning, Jill tries to take back the gun but it goes off accidentally. No one is hurt, but Heather keeps the weapon. However, when Jill comes back later, she finds Heather dead from multiple gun shot wounds. It isn’t long before the police, led by Detective Ahn (Cho), deduce that Jill was the last person to see Heather alive, and that only her fingerprints are on the gun. With the residue from the misfire on her hand as well, Jill quickly becomes the prime suspect in the eyes of the police, but she determines to find out for herself just who did kill Heather…
For much of the first twenty minutes of Gemini, the nature of the relationship between Jill and Heather is somewhat blurred, and perhaps deliberately so. There’s a hint that they might be lovers, something that’s given a degree of credence when one of Heather’s ex-boyfriends, Devin (Carney), calls to say that he knows “what’s going on” (and to make a convenient death threat). Later, when the superfan asks if they’re an item, Heather’s response is indignant, but she doesn’t deny it outright. Nor does she when Stan the paparazzi asks the same question. But on another night, they share a bed at Heather’s home, and Heather whispers “I love you” while Jill sleeps. With the possibility of a deeper emotional relationship existing between the pair, writer-director Katz establishes a more profound meaning for Jill’s solo investigation of Heather’s murder: she’s not just keeping herself out of jail, she wants to find the killer of someone she truly cared about. This informs much of Jill’s quest to keep one step ahead of the police, while also providing the narrative with a depth that is both unexpected and entirely welcome.
What also helps is the modern day film noir vibe that the movie gives off, with Jill in the role of erstwhile private investigator, and the list of suspects such that any one of them could have done it. Katz manipulates the various clues and potential culprits with a great deal of skill, even including a scene where Jill speaks to Greg and he tells her who he thinks is the killer – if he were writing the whole thing as a script. Clever touches such as this, along with a number of visual flourishes, keep the movie from feeling stale or inevitable, and it’s further embellished by a terrific performance from Kirke, giving Jill a resourcefulness that keeps her focused and willing to take calculated risks, whether it’s sneaking into Devin’s hotel room or evading the police on a motorcycle. It’s a confident portrayal of a confident woman, and Kirke proves throughout that Katz was right to choose her for the role. In support, Kravitz is sweet natured yet nervy as Heather, while Cho is charmingly off kilter as the detective who would usually believe in the heroine’s innocence but instead is convinced she’s guilty. It’s another quirky, atypical choice from Katz, and like much else, makes Gemini more than just a pleasant diversion.
Rating: 8/10 – an conventional murder mystery given an unconventional spin, Gemini is an unexpected delight, thanks to Kirke’s self-assured performance, Katz’s witty screenplay, and a tremendously atmospheric mise en scene; only occasionally betraying its modest budget, it’s a movie that provides far more than meets the eye for the viewer willing to delve deeper into its seemingly straightforward plotting.