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Gerry - Preview



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 of them'.

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'.

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