Gemini published exclusively for Projected Figures
Originally associated with the Noughties mumblecore movement, writer/director Aaron Katz makes films – Dance Party, USA (2006), Quiet City (2007), Cold Weather (2010), Land Ho! (2014) – that, in both their setting and sensibility, could not be further from Hollywood. His latest, however, unfolds in the dark heart of Tinseltown, and through its detective-story frame, casts a critically investigative eye over the ethos of a place where stars are everything, and those in their orbit are disposable.
Everyone wants a piece of narcissistic young starlet Heather Anderson (Zoë Kravitz) dead, whether her unstable, coin-collecting ex Devin (Reeve Carney), or Greg the producer (Nelson Franklin) from whose film she has pulled out on a whim, or another producer for whom she is refusing to do reshoots, the paparazzo (James Ransone) who will do anything for a shot of her with rumoured new girlfriend Tracy (Greta Lee), or any one of the stalkers, copycats and wannabes whom Heather has acquired online. Yet when Heather’s body is found in her home, shot several times with a gun that belongs to her loyal personal assistant and friend Jill LeBeau (Lola Kirke), suddenly Jill is the prime suspect, and must race to work out who the real killer was while avoiding LAPD Detective Edward Ahn (John Cho).
Jill makes a perfect cicerone through this shallow, self-absorbed world, because she both is and is not of it. She has all the right connections on her contacts list, but is always dressed down where everyone around her is dressed up, and will always be an employee rather than a player. Still, her increasingly desperate circumstances force her to don various guises and play different parts, even as she starts questioning the true identity of others, and the nature of celebrity, and her friendship with Heather.
The result is a merger of Cold Weather‘s mumblenoir and LA neo-noir: a light and low-key affair led by a laid-back amateur sleuth who, despite repeated assertions about her powers of recall, is remarkably slow to work out whodunnit. Certainly the police are ahead of her about the big twist, and so, thanks to an unnecessary titular tell, are we. Nonetheless Gemini is a biting, often quite funny satire, as all Jill’s digging exposes the illusion, image and rôle play that make up this City of Dreams.
© Anton Bitel