2003 - R - 103 Mins.
|Director: Gus Van Sant|
|Producer: Dany Wolf|
|Written By: Gus Van Sant, Matt Damon, and Casey Affleck|
|Starring: Matt Damon,
Casey Affleck |
|Review by: Carl Langley
They say patience is a virtue, so let me indulge you some information now: your virtues better be everlasting. Gerry, the newest independent flick from Gus Van Sant, auspiciously explores your willingness to endure with elongated scenes that take place in the desert, featuring stubby dialogue that regularly does not coincide with the story.
This shot shows the pinnacle of the film's excitement
Inspired by the great Hungarian director Bela Tarr, Van Sant has created a simple film that will ultimately test its viewer’s patience. Think about it; let’s break down the film’s premise in the most difficult manner possible. Two men coincidentally named Gerry, who appear to be best friends, drive to a trail in the desert that leads to “the thing.” Eventually, the two guys decide to forget their original destination and head back to their car. They foolishly become sidetracked and wound up lost in the desert. That is as complicated as it gets. A simpler, more satisfactory description would have been: two guys get lost in the desert and search for an exit. The direct synopsis and its gained heedfulness for its extremely slow pace may attract some curious viewers, but otherwise, most will be turned away by the expected critical interpretations from the ideal movie watcher.
The first scene sets the measure and the tone of Gerry. Casey Affleck and Matt Damon (who have starred in Good Will Hunting and Ocean’s Eleven together) drive on an interstate through the desert as they are accompanied by tranquilizing music. The camera dawdles along behind the vehicle for what seems like ten miles, alternating from distant to tailgating, and once in a while switching the view to the front, introducing our soon-to-be doomed characters. The scene is relentless, but forewarning, and if this point depletes your toleration, you are in for a long ride.
Gerry is deliberately set at a crawling pace; so slow to the point one would wonder if its actual intentions were burlesque. During my viewing of this minimalist film, I often wondered (and believe me, you will have plenty of time to ponder other things) if Van Sant and his compadres – co-writers Damon and Affleck – had bundles of free time on their hands and felt like playing a practical joke on their fans.
The film, which was shot in Argentina and then moved to Death Valley when an unexpected snow storm hit, offers very little humor or action; Gerry is as dry as its setting. Most of the dialogue comes near the beginning and they only discuss a contestant who blew winnings on Wheel of Fortune, a fantasy video game, and how to get Affleck’s character down from an elevated rock, in what seems like the longest uncut shot in film history. When they do speak, they utter their own created phrases, such as “dirt mattress” or “shirt blanket.”
Van Sant is known for having a few tricks up his sleeve and I am not falling for this chicanery. If there is some allegorical meaning, it is buried too deep to shed any light on. Van Sant has ostensibly kept long, continuous shots to help the viewer process what is actually occurring on the screen, which oddly, is an ingenious decision. The best aspect of Gerry is the nifty camera shots, such as the speechless, synchronized pacing of the two characters. But the longer the two guys slithered across the desert, the less I enjoyed the film. There has not been this much walking without talking in a movie since Gettysburg.
Gerry certainly is an endurance trial, and if you are willing to secure your patience and are looking for creativity, I highly recommend this film. Otherwise, Gerry will be a complete waste of time. The word “gerry” has a meaning that can be gathered from its use in the movie. “You gerried the rendezvous,” says Affleck’s Gerry when they did not meet in their originally planned location. It means to mess up or make an error. Trying to be innovative, Van Sant, Damon, and Affleck “gerried” an interesting thin story and the entertainment value of this film.