Once a staple of Hollywood cinema, the film noir has seemingly become almost solely the realm of independent fare. Studio honchos just don’t fawn over them like they used to. You can argue about whether that’s a bad thing or not, but that’s just the way it is currently. The likes of Brick, for example, showcase that small scale versions are still perfectly done. This week, a new indie noir comes out that deserves to find an audience. It’s Gemini, a modern noir that occasionally subverts the genre in pretty interesting ways. In some ways, it’s exactly what you’d expect. In others, it really goes in a different direction.
The movie is a Hollywood set noir, though one that’s definitely on the unique side. Jill LeBeau (Lola Kirke) is an assistant to actress Heather Anderson (Zoë Kravitz), and the two clearly share a friendship as well. The opening scenes depict this perfectly. Then, something happens. IMDb describes the plot like this: “A heinous crime tests the complex relationship between a tenacious personal assistant and her Hollywood starlet boss. As the assistant unravels the mystery, she must confront her own understanding of friendship, truth, and celebrity.” As Jill tries to get to the bottom of it all, Detective Edward Ahn (John Cho) questions her, attempting to figure out just how involving in things she might be. As things progress, the danger increases, as it must in a noir. Aaron Katz writes and directs here, with the supporting cast including Reeve Carney, Michelle Forbes, Nelson Franklin, Ricki Lake, Greta Lee, Todd Louiso, James Ransone, and more. Even filmmaker Chad Hartigan pops up in a cameo of sorts. Andrew Reed provides the cinematography, while the excellent score comes from underrated composer Keegan DeWitt.
I found this film to be incredibly entertaining and a real nice surprise. The first act is almost a character study, introducing us to Kirke and Kravitz in such a way that you’re already fond of them. Katz is able to start things off playfully, letting them both crack wise in a way that explains their history perfectly. Then, the tension ratchets up, though the humor usually finds a way to sneak through. A scene where Jill and a director discuss what’s happened is just fantastic. Katz has long been a filmmaker worthy of a bigger spotlight, and this could help do just that for him.
Kirke deserves to be a big star. She showcased her skills in Mistress America a few years ago, and this really hammers home that she’s a future A-lister. Aside from that particular Noah Baumbach film, this and the indie AWOL are the examples of her as a leading lady, but she’s more than capable. Her screen presence is positively captivating. She handles the humor and the seriousness with equal skill. Already able to leave an impression in small roles on the big screen, this is the latest example that she needs a larger platform. Kirke is going places, trust me there.
On Friday, audiences can see Kirke showcase her talents once again when Gemini hits theaters in limited release. Katz deserves acclaim too, making the filmmaker and his actress a strong one two punch. It’s not what you’d expect, and all the better for it. This one should expand into more markets over the course of the next few weeks, and if you see it pop up, it’s well worth seeing. Take it from me, as this is, under the radar, one of the better films of 2018 so far. The year is about to wrap up its first quarter, so stay tuned for a rundown of the best its had to offer. Gemini very well might make an appearance…
Be sure to check out Gemini, opening in theaters starting this weekend!