Preview by: Jack Foley
THE last time Matt Damon teamed up with director, Gus Van Sant,
the movie which resulted was Good Will Hunting - the Oscar winning
breakthrough which heralded one of the best screenwriting debuts
of all time.
Well, Damon has reunited with Sant for Gerry, the story of two
men who take a wrong turn on a hike through the desert and become
stranded in the desert, all the while becoming increasingly dehydrated.
The question remains, however, as to whether their plight is some
sort of cat-and-mouse game, or whether they are really in danger.
And much of the film which results is reportedly improvised.
Damon stars alongside another long-time collaborator, Casey Affleck
(brother of best buddie, Ben), which marks the fourth time the
duo have appeared on-screen together.
For Van Sant, the project marks an eagerly-anticipated return
to his indie roots. The movie was put together on a modest budget,
with a small crew, and was funded outside of the studio system
following several mainstream Hollywood flicks, including
the ill-fated Psycho remake.
Van Sant first garnered critical success in the late '80s and
early '90s with films such as Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private
Idaho, before thrusting Nicole Kidman into the limelight for her
performance in To Die For.
Then came Good Will Hunting, in 1997, which garnered him an Oscar
nomination. The film itself won Oscars for the Damon/Affleck screenplay
and for Robin Williams (as Best Supporting Actor).
Speaking about Gerry at a recent press conference in Seattle,
Van Sant revealed that the story was something that Damon, Affleck
and himself dreamt up one night, while they were 'hanging out'
in New York.
"We wanted to work together, and Matt, a year earlier, had
mentioned this [true] story about two guys who got lost in the
desert, and one of the guys apparently turned on the other and
killed him. They were apparently best friends," he explains.
"It was inspired by that story, and other stories about people
getting lost. I thought Casey and Matt would be good as the two
guys, and we had a little bit of financing, so we could just go
out and shoot this project in the desert.
"We just went ahead without, really, a screenplay, so much
as we had meetings beforehand [where] we wrote an outline and
we kind of forged it as we went. We didn't have a piece of writing
that told us what we were supposed to do each day."
Shooting subsequently began in Argentina, before moving (temporarily)
to Jordan (a visit cut short by the travel warnings to Americans
at the time) and then, finally, to Death Valley.
The film which has resulted opened in America (on limited release)
a few weeks ago, and drew largely positive notices. Gerry is due
for release in the UK later this year.
What the US critics had to say...
Leading the way is Entertainment Weekly, which awarded
it a near-perfect A- and described it as 'very slow and beautiful
and compelling'. It added: "The movie is on some level a
stunt, but it has the fervent, sun-dazed pull of an authentic
experience unfolding in real time, with glints of drama, comedy,
and terror mixed into the almost-but-not-quite tedium."
E! Online, meanwhile, gave it a B+ and felt that 'art-house
fans [will] get totally lost in this too', while the Los Angeles
Times wrote that 'there are about five people who are going
to dig Gus Van Sant's new film and, yeah, well, I'm one
The New York Times wrote that 'with all its quirks, Gerry
seeps into your pores like the wind-whipped sand that stings the
faces of these disoriented hikers', while The Onion's A.V Club
opined that it is 'an existential comedy that slowly morphs into
a doleful statement about a generation that has lost its compass'.
Less positive, however, were the likes of People, which
wrote that Gerry is 'the sort of art house picture that makes
even art house fans yawn', while TV Guide felt that the
movie's big problem was 'Van Sant's idea to make a two-character
psychodrama without actually bothering to write characters'.
LA Weekly's critic remained a little undecided, concluding
that 'ultimately, [Gerry is] an exercise in cinematic form', while
the New York Post felt that it is 'a gorgeously shot endurance
test that is impossible to get through on anything less than a
full night's sleep and a double shot of espresso'.
Village Voice, meanwhile, simply dismissed it as an 'exercise
in existential tedium'.
But back to the positives, and Planet Sick-Boy felt that
it 'might be the most polarizing film to hit theatres in a long
time' (awarding it seven out of 10), and Slant Magazine
wrote that 'not since his first film, Mala Noche, has Van Sant
produced a film so pure, uncompromising and ravishing to watch'.
Its critic awarded it a maximum four out of four.
Rounding off our overview, however, is FilmCritic.com,
which announced that Gerry 'deserves your patience more than Mulholland
Drive ever did'.