Before We Vanish by Justin Stewart Film

Gemini | Aaron Katz

March 30, 2018

Aaron Katz’s glossy, very surface-conscious mystery opens in high style with an upside-down shot of twilit palm trees, cool vaporwave beats easing the transition to additional moody images of crepuscular Los Angeles environs (Andrew Reed’s the DP, Keegan DeWitt did the music). While 2014’s Iceland-set comedy Land Ho!, co-directed by Martha Stephens, was a more severe geographical departure, Gemini affirms that the far staider Portland and Brooklyn settings of Katz’s previous films are now thoroughly in the rearview. The atmosphere isn’t just vapid postcard prettiness, since the plot concerns troubled Hollywood starlet Heather (Zoë Kravitz), her personal assistant and friend Jill (Lola Kirke), and a sudden act of violence. The handsome drive-by shots of Hollywood streetlife and sumptuous slo-mo walks through a karaoke club do well to punctuate the stretches of mundane dialogue, like frustrated director Greg’s (Nelson Franklin) Scream-like rundown of potential suspects, or Jill’s utterly opaque behavior around detective Edward Ahn (John Cho). (Definitively announcing Gemini as a neo-noir exercise, Jill even makes herself over with bottle-blonde hair). Kravitz brings a checked-out sadness to Heather, and James Ransone is a clutch supporting player, as he was in Sean Baker’s like-minded recent LA-set indies Starlet and Tangerine. Katz is better at setting a mood than he is at orchestrating complicated plot points, and the film ultimately peters out, but it is a gorgeous bauble for awhile.

Published as part of BAMcinemaFest 2017 | Dispatch 1.