Directed by: Aaron Katz/2018

With a deal between Neon Films and The Alamo Drafthouse, a number of films are coming to the theater chain across the country that are built for a good time.  Neon is coming off of the success of I, Tonya, and the films Colossal, and Ingrid Goes West, and seeking to capitalize that momentum with their latest film, the modern neo-noir film Gemini starring Lola Kirke (Mistress America, American Made), Zoë Kravitz (Divergent, Mad Max: Fury Road), and John Cho (J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Series, Harold & Kumar films).

As stated above, Gemini, is made to be a fun, albeit serious film.  The basic premise is that a young Hollywood starlet named Heather Anderson (Kravitz) is finding herself in a tough place.  She has decided to drop out of a long-gestating studio film that angers both the writer/director of the film she’s dropping out of, Greg (Nelson Frank-Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), as well as her agent Jamie (Michelle Forbes-True Blood).  She has also left her fellow celebrity boyfriend Devin (Reeve Carney-Penny Dreadful), gaining lots of tabloid attention, and is secretly seeing a female model named Tracy (Greta Lee-St. Vincent, Money Monster).  Her best friend, however, is her personal assistant Jill LeBeau (Kirke).

It is Jill who does the dirty work for Heather.  She is the one who tells Greg that Heather is bailing on the film.  She must take the angry phone calls from Tracy, or mediate things with Devin.  After a night where Heather met an obsessed fan, and then went out partying with Jill including having Jill bring a gun over so Heather would feel safe from whatever is bothering her, things start to spiral out of control.  First Jill, while taking back the gun, before deciding to leave it with Heather, accidentally fires it, breaking some glass displays in Heather’s home.  Jill leaves, but when she returns later, she finds Heather’s body riddled with bullet holes and the gun lying nearby.

Detective Edward Ahn (Cho) shows up to investigate.  We learn that Jill tested positive for firing a gun, and her prints are on the murder weapon.  She can also be placed at the murder scene close to the time of death.  While only a person of interest, Jill dons a disguise and begins to investigate the murder of her friend and employer Heather.  Is it the disgruntled ex-boyfriend who doesn’t have an alibi, or is it the disgruntled studio director who had spent years developing his film only to see it fall apart when Heather left the project?  Maybe it is the furious agent who is sick of Heather’s erratic behavior, or the obsessed super fan, Sierra (Jessica Parker Kennedy) that they met earlier.  Even Tracy is laying low causing some suspicion to be cast her way.  Or maybe it is Jill, who was extremely drunk the night before, and not fully recovered when she left things with Heather.

While the mystery itself is pretty predictable, it is engaging enough to keep you invested.  Lola Kirke does a fine job as a woman who is under the pressure of being a murder suspect, while balancing the loss of her friend.  The real drawing point to this film is the little homages that writer/director Aaron Katz includes throughout the story to classic noir-styled films.

Film aficionados will enjoy seeing nods to films like Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon as well as many others, but what makes it all work is the cinematography of Andrew Reed (Land Ho!).  He does a good job of mixing lots of scenes that take place at night and casting the darkness against the soft-glow of Los Angeles’ neon lighting.  Blue is a common hue throughout which lends itself to both atmosphere and character emotion.

Slow, deliberate shots of L.A.’s palm trees, and scenic drives through the city by Katz’s direction compliment perfectly what Andrew Reed is capturing with the camera.  Played off against a strong score by Keegan DeWitt (The Hero, Morris from America), and the mood and vibe that emanates from this film is far superior to the actual story and mystery at the heart of it all.  Seeing this film in a theater like The Alamo Drafthouse will allow the viewer a chance to blend into a theater atmosphere that perfectly compliments the tone and feel of Los Angeles as experienced through the frames of Gemini.

Gemini is now playing at The Alamo Drafthouse and other select theaters around the country.