Gerry (2003) ThinkFilm
1 hr. 43 mins.
Starring: Matt Damon, Casey Affleck
Directed by: Gus Van Sant




Photo: ThinkFilm

Writer-director Gus Van Santís ode to Movieland meditation is definitely realized in the stillborn offering Gerry. In the tradition of trying to shy away from the conventional concoction of delivering another hectic Hollywood narrative that incorporates the typical device of excessive dialogue and other enhancing sounds that reinforces the imagery, Van Sant gleefully trots out this misguided existential experiment thatís gone completely awry. The result: Gerry is high-minded, hallucinatory hogwash. Reuniting with the frenzy-free filmmaker and his uneven brand of sleepwalking cinema is his Good Will Hunting charges Casey Affleck and Matt Damon (who both co-wrote this scarcely transparent screenplay along with Van Sant). In many ways, itís refreshing that Van Sant wants to helm a different kind of project that dares to buck the familiar norm of moviemaking. Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh certainly tried this unorthodox approach with the grainy and sketchy Full Frontal although with entirely different tactics. Gerry is somewhat ambitious in what it tries to strive for in its ambiguous conception but the end results feel so ponderous and pointless.

Damon and Affleck share the namesake of Gerry, the two cads who foolishly decide to take a lengthy drive to the remote part of the Californian wilderness only to end up lost in oblivion. Of course it gives an excuse for the modern-day heartthrob Lewis and Clark tandem to conveniently wander about thus emphasizing Van Santís sleepy trek in an exposition meant for the audience to appreciate the subtle yet hollow journey. Somehow watching Gerry number one and two exist in a calming desolate desert as they search for the obligatory meaning of their carefree lives is about as stimulating as watching your water faucet continuously run without thinking to shut the darn thing off.

The Gerry twosome end up making their way in the endless dusty landscape trying to get back to the familiar surroundings in which they hailed from. As they labor on in their so-called tranquil cross-country adventure, the audience is treated to some trivial and sparse ad-libbed conversational exchanges that are nonsensical and painfully witless. The camera does come to the rescue occasionally as it captures the allure of the transfixing surroundings that trap the hunky hitchhikers like a tired pair of observers stuck in an expensive painting.

Gerry will most likely be touted by bemoaning analysts as a benignant study of man and his self-discovery issues with the world and its resources for he constantly takes for granted. The idea of isolating a couple of individuals with the land that they roam on mindlessly without ever thinking how grateful they ought to be to inherit such a beautiful (and sometimes complex) utopia is a fascinating notion to a certain extent. But Van Sant misses the mark and is never able to convey this silky sentiment without the threatening elements of boredom and repetitiveness settling into his conscientious project. By all accounts Gerry is an exquisite and captivating canvas from a visual and technical point of view. But as a complete story with sturdy characterizations and an involving plot to accompany the visionary robustness of Van Santís vehicle, the film fails to meet the challenge of its insightful convictions. In the long run, Gerry feels like a little self-absorbed sensory-minded gem for the celebrated trio of Van Sant, Oscar-winning Damon and the low profile Affleck sibling to dabble in between the next high-budget film that comes along and graces all their prosperous paths.

One is not sure whether Gerry is an intentional low-key vanity piece or a spontaneous return to a humbling and quaint intimacy with grassroots moviemaking for the A-list personnel to feel a sense of moral gratitude. And just thinkóit actually took three people to write this empty and lightweight on-the-road melodrama? Whatever the motivation, Van Santís expedient excursion into the harmony of our relationship with the unpredictability of our intriguing landscape should have gelled a lot more convincingly in our inquisitive psyches.

Click here to comment on this review or post your own thoughts.

Frank Ochieng



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