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As I sat squirming in my seat looking at my watch for over an hour and a half, waiting for SOMETHING to happen, I had a flashback to my experimental film class back at Ithaca College. I remember a film that was just over an hour of a camera tumbling down the side of a mountain. I found myself wrestling with the question: Is Gerry art or entertainment? And do I love it or hate it?
The truth is, now several days after watching the film, I find it hard to definitively love or hate Gerry. The film is sort of an enigma, one that really requires a second viewing, yet was so 'difficult' to sit through the first time around that it hard to imagine watching it again.
One of the most frustrating things about Gerry is that there are some simply amazing moments in the film, but they are surrounded by such emptiness, such tediousness that it's hard to enjoy the film as a whole.
Based entirely around two characters, Gerry follows two guys (both named Gerry) as they get lost in the desert. Much of the film simply follows them as they are lost showing brilliant (even awe inspiring) desolate vistas, and not much else. In the 103 mins of the film the two Gerrys talk to each other only a handful of times, and each time the dialogue is as sparse as the desert. Both stars Matt Damon and Casey Affleck are given writing credits on the film along with Gus Van Sant, but the truth is the entire dialogue of the film could easily been written on the back of a napkin. It's that sparse.
What dialogue there is, is very entertaining. It's often fairly random and feels extremely improvisational, and I kept wanting to hear more of it. Is that Gus Van Sant's clever hand or just a great lack of dialogue? I have no idea!
If you can get past the extreme vast emptiness of Gerry and are willing to squirm in your seat for over an hour, there really is something extraordinary here. It's not often that 'successful' or 'big name' actors and directors take such huge risks with a film, and Gerry is a risk that is sure to challenge you in a way no other films do.
Because Gerry is anything but 'main stream,' it's unlikely that it will get very broad distribution. I was able to see the film as part of the Portland International Film Festival, and I'm sure in the near term the festival circuit will be the only place to see this film. But I do hope it finds its way onto DVD. I'd love to have a commentary track not only from the makers of the film but art/cinema critics giving their take on this truly unique film.
When I left the theater I was sure I was going to give Gerry a SKIP IT recommendation, but after letting it 'cook' in my head for a while and really mulling over it, I'm going to RECOMMEND it with the caviate that you need to know what you're signing yourself up for when you go see this movie. Gerry is the perfect movie to go to with a group of friends and then grab a cup of coffee (or other adult beverage) and discuss. Some are sure to hate this film, while others may love it. Where am I on that scale? I'm still not sure.