Gerry Movie Review
This is a slow movie, and intentionally so. The entire film comprises less than 100 shots -- one of which is a sunrise in real time. The rest of it is nearly as prolonged; the young men walk in utter silence for about ten minutes, and we get a similarly extended view of Affleck lost in thought.
Though the pace devolves into tedium at points, the overall tone is contemplative and compelling. It's almost a surprise when the camera changes vantage points; a rare sensation when you've grown accustomed to a diet of 30-second blips.
If you're the sort who watches a Kubrick flick and wishes the goddamn spaceship would just move, or if you have a low tolerance for blunt pretension masquerading as art, you may be rolling your eyes. Well cut it out. This movie deserves your patience more than Mulholland Drive ever did.
The cinematography is undeniably lovely; nearly every shot is perfectly composed. The acting is so sharp that the two brief conversations the characters exchange near the beginning endear them to us through their hardship. True, the unvaried landscape and lack of action will weary some audiences, but Van Sant isn't trying to titillate you, he's trying to engulf you.
Shockingly, he succeeds by contextualizing monotony. The stillness and repetition pull you into the characters' sense of hopelessness. When the panoramic landscape shots seem to grow increasingly ominous, you realize that he's got you rooting for these guys -- these guys who've said about 30 words since they appeared on screen. You use the dead airtime to figure out how they're going to get out of this, and to worry about what will happen if they don't.
It's rare to find a film where the vehicle so accurately mirrors the content. You'll want to know what happens next, and the director gives you time and space to think about it once you do. If you can make it thorough to the end, it will haunt you. Just grab a cup of coffee before you go.
Often rumored to be an elaborate joke from Van Sant, the DVD lets you decide for yourself whether Gerry is art or just 102 minutes of film school exercises. A single behind the scenes vignetter won't help you make up your mind, alas.