Welcome to "Reel Women," a column highlighting important women in the world of cinema, from on-screen characters to real-life filmmakers.
Perhaps you, too, will have the mystery of Aaron Katz’s new film Gemini figured out before Lola Kirke, playing celebrity assistant Jill, gets her trench coat makeover—her millennial L.A. version of the hard-boiled detective uniform—and dyes her blunt-banged hair blonde, suddenly transforming into our generation’s Patricia Arquette from David Lynch’s Lost Highway. But Jill is no Arquette: She isn’t the one brutally murdered, and she isn’t the enigmatic femme fatale who will send Bill Pullman types down a rabbit hole.
Jill is instead more like Pullman, the unreliable suspect whose perspective the film assumes, and the mysterious woman who sends Jill down the puzzling path is actress Heather Anderson (Zoë Kravitz), who the film immediately makes vulnerable via an invasive paparazzo and a clingy fan, plus a director who becomes disgruntled after Heather drops out of his movie. Oh, and then there’s her ex-boyfriend who literally says, "I’m going to fucking murder her." As I’ve said, maybe you’ll have it all figured out by the time Heather’s dead body is found in a pool of blood.
But that won't make Katz’s thriller—drenched in neon lights and a dusky purple hue—any less of a delectable watch. The mumblecore-graduated director spares no expense in making Gemini (out March 30) look like a neo-noir paradise.
Of course, the L.A. setting and the two women at the center of the film calls to mind another Lynch: Mulholland Drive. There’s even a light persona-swap situation, with Heather’s co-dependency on Jill which once again drives home the long-intrigued mystique of close female friendships. One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Heather and Jill, away from public eye, are talking in the bathroom—about Heather borrowing Jill’s gun, of all things—but we only see them interact through mirrors. Heather can be seen in the large mirror while Jill’s face is in the corner, only visible through a small, round bathroom mirror, the view mostly obstructed. Here we can draw conclusions about their respective vanity, sure, but also about their power dynamic and their intertwined lives. We see Heather only through the mirror's reflection, but we can see Jill’s non-reflected body in the foreground, slightly peeking out of the bathroom door. She’s the anchor of the film; Heather is as fleeting as a reflection.
As with many films about two close female friends, especially one with an unbalanced power structure, a queer reading can be made here as well—not to mention that Heather is explicitly queer, dating a K-pop star named Tracy (Greta Lee) after dumping her boyfriend (the angry one who threatened to "fucking murder her" earlier). What sweet coincidence, then, that when we’re introduced to Tracy, the three women go out for drunken karaoke and step into some neon-drenched bisexual lighting. But the signals are just as loud between Jill and Heather; there’s a look that Jill shoots over to Heather that lingers a beat too long as she asks her if she loves Tracy. They even share a bed later that night and share supposedly platonic "I love you"s. All this before Heather turns up dead, with Jill’s fingerprints found on the gun.
The Selena-Yolanda dynamic is nothing new, and Detective Edward Ahn (John Cho) is right to put Jill at the top of the suspect list. Jill knows she looks guilty, and does her own snooping outside the official investigation. The trench coat and blonde hair makeover is obviously silly and doesn’t fool anyone, but there’s something endearingly refreshing about a neo-noir heroine who, for all her lack of experience, is motivated by her own convictions of innocence, and a curiosity for the mystery at hand.
In our Search Party generation, the inquisitive mind does not have to assume the body of Humphrey Bogart. Gemini can prove to be a little bit vapid plot-wise, but the casting of Kirke and Kravitz makes the film addictively watchable. Katz previously told Broadly that the two actresses were more like collaborators in building their characters. Kravitz is pitch-perfect as the elusive A-lister who’s had enough of the Hollywood life, but Kirke, who holds our attention for the entirety of the film, is the kind of everywoman protagonist who is not plebeian but rather someone who proves to be clever—even when her disguise isn’t so—in dire situations.