The good ol’ boy network is alive and well in Hollywood. For proof, as if we really needed any, look no further than director Gus Van Sant’s somnambulant snoozer “Gerry.” Van Sant reunites here with his fellow “Good Will Hunting” alums Casey Affleck and Matt Damon, co-writing with them what must have been about a ten-page screenplay if, in fact, one existed at all, and then turning them loose to trudge through the desert. And trudge, and trudge, and trudge.
“Gerry” opens with an interminable lullaby as our two heroes drive to a remote wilderness trail. Interminable, by the way, is easily the most accurate adjective one could use to describe nearly every aspect of this film. But I digress. So, anyway, our two young studs, who refer to each other simply as “Gerry,” foolishly veer off the trail and quickly wind up lost. They compound this error by then setting off on a cross-country trek through a vast desolate wasteland. This makes them even more lost. And thirsty. They fight for their lives. The end.
We’ve seen this movie before. Only in those cases, the director had the good sense to keep his or her hero’s desperate wanderings through the desert limited to a single scene or montage safely ensconced within a real movie. “Gerry” is literally nothing but these two heartthrobs’ desperate wanderings through the desert. Indeed, the person with the easiest job on the film had to be the editor, as he was apparently under orders not to cut out a single frame between “Action!” and “Cut!”
The film consists of long, literally minutes at a time tracking shots or circular dollies mercifully punctuated by all-too-few brief and semi-ad-libbed dialogue exchanges. (Most of which, by the way, were actually pretty amusing for those four of us still awake.) It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that watching “Gerry” is like watching people get lost in real time. This can’t be an accident, of course, which can only mean that Van Sant must be deliberately trying his audience’s patience. Well, here’s a news flash: Watching people who are lost is neither fun nor entertaining and only marginally interesting.
Now, all the pseudo-intellectual wannabes out there will fall all over themselves fawning over Van Sant and going on ad nauseam about how “Gerry” is actually a brilliant ruminating meditation on isolation or self-discovery or some such nonsense. Maybe they’re right. Maybe this really is a brilliant piece of cinema. Maybe the dozens of people who walked out of this bore; who were yawning, snoring or desperately checking their watches around me really are morons…but I don’t think so.
“Gerry” is certainly a visually exquisite film almost by default, thanks to its stunning vistas more than anything the filmmakers are doing. And that’s good, because God knows we have more than enough time to stare at those vistas. The film is also good for a giggle or two before the boys get into truly hot water. But for the most part, “Gerry” is a lot of self-indulgent baloney. Had it not been directed by Gus Van Sant, had it not starred Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, it most likely would never even have been made, let alone screened at Sundance instead of some far more deserving film by an unknown that didn’t make it in.
But then, like I said, the good ol’ boy network is alive and well.