Gerry review by Mike LongDue to my schedule, I rarely get to see movies in the theater anymore, and it something that I miss. Yet, due to the technical advances with DVD players, digital televisions, and surround sound, I can have a near-theatrical experience at home. Still, of the many DVDs that I view, there are several that I wish I could have seen in a cinema, just to get that big-screen experience. The newly released Gerry, does not fall into that category. I'm glad that I saw it at home, where I would I be safe in case I slid into a coma.
Gerry tells the story of two guys, who both seem to be named Gerry, played by Matt Damon and Casey Affleck. (I'm certain that Damon's character was named Gerry.) As the film opens, the two are driving through the desert. They park their car and walk past a sign which reads, "Wilderness Trail". They walk into the desert and promptly get lost. With no water and no discernible landmarks, this pair wanders the desert, attempting to stay alive.
And that's it as far as plot goes. Damon, Affleck, and director Gus Van Sant, all of whom worked together previously on Good Will Hunting, have attempted to create an experiment suspense film with Gerry and they've failed miserably. Whereas Good Will Hunting is known for its incredible dialogue, Gerry is the exact opposite, as there's maybe ten minutes of speaking in this 103 minute film. This is the kind of minimalist, stripped-down arthouse film which dares the viewer to watch it and doesn't attempt to be entertaining. There is no backstory to the two characters and we never learn exactly why they chose to hike in the desert (although, they do mention that there's a "thing" at the end of the trail, which is presumably a marker of some sort), and we get very little understanding of what their relationship is. The only real information that we get is that they are lost and that they have no food or water.
Instead of typical hysterics, where characters say things like, "What are we going to do?! We're going to die!!", Van Sant attempts to create a sense of doom and desperation by filling the film with long tracking shots which contain no dialogue. The cinematography in Gerry is beautiful, as the film was shot in Death Valley, the Salt Lake region of Utah, and Argentina, but the movie itself is painfully boring, as we simply watch Damon and Affleck walk through the desert. I kept waiting for something to happen, such as the family from The Hills Have Eyes attacking. The only break in the monotony comes when Affleck gets stuck on top of a rock, and this scene, done in one long shot like most of the film, becomes nihilist cinema's version of a "Three Stooges" skit. As I was watching the film, and liberally using my fast-forward button, as I knew I wasn't missing any dialogue, I prayed that Van Sant would at least grace the film with a twist ending. And, miracle of miracles, he does. But, it turns out to be one which is telegraphed and has no impact whatsoever on the viewer. The copyright date on Gerry is 2001, and the film played Sundance in 2002, and had a limited release in 2003. So, if you're wondering why you've never heard of a film starring Matt Damon and directed by Gus Van Sant, the answer is simple. Gerry is aimed squarely at an audience who is willing to sacrifice time in order to see a pretentious presentation of art. I can only imagine that Gerry was a low-budget endeavor, but with the talent involved, that money could have been spent elsewhere, on a much better film.
Gerry wanders onto DVD courtesy of Buena Vista Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The desert images on this DVD look fantastic, as the image is very clear and there is very little grain to be had. The picture has an incredible amount of depth, as the images in Gerry are the films only saving grace. The movie is almost absent of color at times, but the occasional shades look good. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, which is a true waste, as the film is an exercise in silence. The sparse dialogue sounds fine, and the music reproduction is good. The only extra on the DVD is a 14-minute behind-the-scenes video entitled "Salt Lake Van Sant". This shows the crew shooting on the Salt Lake, but offers no interviews, simply random video images...sort of like the movie.
2 out of 10 Jackasses