on October 20, 2006
It is perhaps time to address a few of the criticisms levelled at "Gerry."
1. Nothing Happens.
In fact, there is an incredible richness of action. No, I'm not kidding. Every detail, from dialogue, landscape and sound to editing, music and even the opening blue screen is there to help the viewer immerse him/herself in the film. The first line of the movie is "Gerry, the path" which one character says to another, foreshadowing everything that is to follow. The way the characters are composed in the frame to viscerally demonstrate the futility of their march by having the horizon simply not move at all. The long tracking shots, much maligned by many critics as being far too long and without meaning are packed with incident if you are engaged. Which brings me to criticism number 2.
2. There is no point to the movie.
That all depends on your point of view of course. But I was utterly sucked in from the beginning. The metaphor of two men wandering futilely in an indifferent landscape is to a die-hard existentialist what a pint of Guiness is to a parched Irishman. As I watched the two nameless characters (they're not both called Gerry-more on that later) wander, I yearned to join them, for the wanderings of most mortals is not as beautiful as theirs seemed to be, in spite of its tragic end. So what is the point? That we are all wandering around, and all we have to hang on to is each other. Or maybe it's that we live in an uncaring universe and we must hold fast to the boyscout's motto "Be Prepared." Or maybe it's as another reviewer on IMDb said, sometimes we're rock marooned and need a friend to build us a dirt matress. I don't know, but I know that every time I watch the film (and I am compelled to keep watching it), I find more to think about. (I don't wish to preach, but maybe it's simply a matter of rethinking what you expect from a movie. This movie doesn't spoonfeed, but I'm hardpressed to think of another movie that rewards a vigorously engaged viewer. Maybe...Vertigo?"
3. The Acting stinks.
Matt Damon's character wears new khakis because he is a callow young man who thinks it would be cool to go for a hike with his pal. They talk about Wheel of Fortune and conquering Thebes to stave off the terror of being lost, in the dark with zero prospects of help, and no ability to help themselves. Ditto the "mannered" phrases like "Mountain-top Scout-about" and "rock-marooned" and "these animal tracks lead either to water or the mating ground." They are either trying to keep up the macho image of a man in touch with his environment, or else they are trying to keep the other from panicking or both. It is probably also worth noting, that their incompetence is made obvious right from the start. And Matt Damon's character's description of Wheel of Fortune's rules isn't even right. In other words, he doesn't even know the rules of the game. Although the dialogue is said to be improvised, I would argue that it was probably quite well-outlined before production began, because everything that either Matt Damon or Casey Affleck say comments directly on the heart of the matter, even things as mundane as "I almost succumbed, but I turbanned up and I feel better now."
4. Both characters are named Gerry.
A small point, but one that baffles me. I don't think that either of the characters is named Gerry. Based on its usage throughout the film, a "Gerry" would seem to be a wrong move, a blunder or an idiot. It's simply a slang term they both use. They call each other Gerry when the other has done something foolish, like lose his way, or mistaken the rendez-vous point. Otherwise, they call each other "dude."
5. It is impossible to care about the characters.
As you can see, I've given the characters a bit of back-story. I may be wrong in my assumptions. I probably don't see them the way the authors (Affleck, Damon and van Sant) did. However, I believe that the characters are specifically designed to be "everyboys" that any young man can identify with. They are universal archetypes. I feel for them, because I can easily see myself in the same situation. Perhaps not literally, but metaphorically in any case.
6. The characters are stupid.
It is true that it is hard to imagine anyone getting so hopelessly lost in so short a time. Look at your tracks and follow them back to the car. It's a sandy trail after all. However, the whole point is that these characters are out of their element. The fact that vegetation disappears should clue them in to the possibility that they are going the wrong way, that they "Gerried." That they don't doesn't mean that they're stupid or that the film is stupid or that we should feel stupid if none of this bothers us. It means that the two protagonists, like us a lot of the time, are in over their heads.
This is a movie that rewards patience, attention and care of viewing. Repeated viewings are probably a must. This may be a form of torture to some. But for those of you who were infuriated, frustrated or bored by the movie while you were watching it, but couldn't get it out of your heads after the fact, give it another chance.
on April 29, 2005
This is a story about two men ( Matt Damon and Chris Affleck) lost in the desert together.
The key to the movie is it's title "Gerry" and a name seemingly affectionately used between the men implying that each is a loser (to put in a nice way). The truth is they call each other this because they are very, very close relationally but actually carry deep resentments towards one another and have the emotions stuffed.
They make fun of a woman on a game show who makes a stupid error while they themselves are marching into hell unknowingly. Affleck relates his story about coming up 1 horse short on a computer game and has the wherewithall to climb a huge rock but again does not have the cunning to find his own way down.
The movie progresses and you see the infamous crunching, walking scene as the faces give the answers to the thoughts that lie beneath. Affleck knows he is "the Gerry" and Damon realizes that Affleck is "the Gerry". If he had never listened to Affleck he wouldn't be in this mess. This is where he realizes what he has done to himself by allowing Affleck to make decisions. He has befriended a loser and now he is paying the price. The only way to remedy the situation is to get rid of "the Gerry". The moment "the Gerry" is removed salvation appears on the horizon for the survivor, the winner.
The scenes are ethereal and give a true flavor of the great southwest .
The acting is superb by both actors and the camera work is meticulous. This is a wonderful film.
on September 12, 2003
...There is talk of little plot, but it seemed to me that the movie was about man vs. nature on different levels. There's Damon and Affleck's battle against the elements of desert; then there's their battle against human nature. I read a Gus Van Sant interview where he mentioned that the movie could be in part about the masculine/feminine battle within each person, with Damon representing the more aggressive (male) half and Affleck representing the more sensitive (female) half. That makes some sense considering both characters go by the name gerry (a word used in many ways in the film). Battling for survival in the desert, which part of human nature wins?
When I saw the movie there were eight people in the theater, and two walked out 20 minutes into it (they were definitely on a date, so one can only imagine the conversation in the car afterward... "uh thanks. How about I give you a call instead next time..."). The movie was indeed hard to get through, but it had just enough movement to keep me involved. I think it was because we have been programmed by today's movie to have everything hit us over the head, either with music, dialogue or action. My two favorite scenes are: the beautiful opening sequence with the piano and cello and the camera on the hood of the car just showing them driving to the trail, both lost in their thoughts; and when they're walking for like 6-7 minutes and you just see their heads bob and hear their feet crunch... sometimes in unison and sometimes breaking apart. It came at, I think, a crucial time when the survival instinct of each person was starting to take over and Damon began distancing himself from Affleck.
The only reason this movie doesn't get five stars for me, is that you're supposed to believe right away that Damon and Affleck are good friends, yet I could never feel that between them. It made me wonder, why the heck are these two guys even hanging out, let along going for a walk in the desert? Perhaps that was intentional. In a movie like this, everything is left up for debate.
What else can be said? You've got to see this movie to believe it. Unfortunately, a big TV screen won't do the film's cinematography justice. Seeing the huge, wide-open shots in the theater definitely played a part in hypnotizing you. it's one of the more daring movies you'll ever see. If you're tired of action flicks that blitz your senses with techno music and CGI fight scene after fight scene, or are sick of cliche dialogue and storylines, consider Gerry. It was made to slow down your world and try to find meaning where there is hardly any noise or words. It's incredible this movie was financed by someone, but I'm glad it was. It's a movie that starts to make sense days after you've seen it and can process the experience.
"Gerry" is a deeply symbolic movie filled with meaning, depth, richness and a compelling directorial vision. Rarely does such a movie grace our eyes.
But none of that matters. Why?
Because this movie is so boring it will make you want to stab yourself in the head with a craft knife. Gus Van Sant's third "death" movie stretches out a five-minute plot to a full-length movie, filled with talking, walking, sitting, talking, walking, and... MORE WALKING. It's like watching home videos of two strangers backpacking.
In a sense, I have already described the plot. Two young men, both named Gerry (Matt Damon and Casey Affleck), drive out into the desert to look at a "thing." Then they decide they don't want to see the thing, and so instead of driving back to civilization and going to a bar like SANE people, they... keep walking.
And walking. And walking. They walk through a field. They follow animal tracks. They walk through more desert. And when they get lost, their desperation leads them to violence. Here's the abridged summary: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZSNORESNOREZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
In a sense, I can understand what Gus Van Sant was doing -- "Gerry" has some intriguing ideas about how endless boredom, monotony and disorientation can warp our minds, and it is graced with eerie, almost otherworldly scenery with rolling clouds, pale soft skies and ethereally alien desertscapes. And since this is based on real life, it allows us to explore the darker facets of human nature.
But it's JUST. SO. BORING. It actually feels like you're lost in a desert... and that is BORING.
It's just ten-minute-long shots of Affleck and Damon shuffling slowly across the sand, driving the car, sitting on rocks, and watching the sun rise. Every time the monotony starts to bore you into a hypnotic stupor, something happens to jolt you out of it, reminding the viewers that they are watching a movie that is as interesting as watching paint dry. On grass. On top of a melting glacier.
And maybe that is what Van Sant was going for. Maybe he wanted us to feel bored, frustrated and empty... but he also gives viewers absolutely nothing else. It's just an endless, mindless trudge across the desert, which doesn't really make you think about anything deeper than "PLEASE GOD, KILL THEM BOTH."
In conclusion, "Gerry" is like watching someone's vacation videos... if they decided to do an endurance trek, and forgot to turn off the camera first. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
on July 28, 2007
This film has an intensity that hangs on you, I can feel it almost tangibly inside of my stomach. It's simplicity, emotional music and long scenes which mostly comprise of just the two characters and the environment makes you the viewer, feel as though you are one of the characters. You are experiencing it, walking along side of them as it were.
The camera movements really generate a feeling of the vast terrain, at one point it rotates fully and completely around the character, taking its time. Through the eye of the camera we are in the center of the landscape and we see how truly overwhelming it is.
It is often quiet but this makes room for us to contemplate what they must be thinking, or what would we be thinking. We are directed into our own internal dialog. It's very psychological. The dialog between the two characters is exactly what you would expect from a couple of guys lost and struggling with physical/emotional meltdowns. It's not showy, it's thought provoking. I was impressed with it's honesty.
We watch them walk, as time passes, they are treading slower and slower, within timeframes that compared to a typical movie would be an eon, but this lends to our experiencing what it would be like to walk that long around the desert. It is quite incredible that such sparse content can exude such an overwhelming physical and emotional reaction from the audience. It is a skillful and powerful production. It takes real talent to make a movie that doesn't need a lot to say a lot.
I thought the scenes near the end, when they are oh so tired and weary, were incredible, the landscape seemed alien, otherworldly - this really gave us a unique outlook on how severely this experience would impact a person, lost beyond our current understanding.
Brilliant, I've watched it twice now, and will watch it again.
on May 16, 2014
Before I met her, my wife saw this at Sundance and mentioned it a few times as a weird one. She said this movie was just two guys who called each other Gerry walking and talking while getting lost on a hike.
I said, "that sounds terrible, I have to see it."
And I ordered it up.
I would estimate I've seen around 1,500 films in my life and this has to rank as one of the ten worst I've ever seen. If I had seen in it in the (non-Sundance) theater, I would have walked out. Instead, I watched the first twenty minutes, then skipped ahead repeatedly until I got to the SALT FLATS scene near the end (as I currently live in Utah, I like to see anything filmed on that crazy part of the state).
According to IMDB, this film runs for about 100 minutes, and features exactly 100 shots, resulting in an average shot length of about 60 seconds. To me, that's the most interesting thing about it.
All I can figure is that Casey, Matt and Gus wanted a vacation to Jordan and Argentina and wanted someone else to pay for it. Otherwise, there was no need to film this totally tedious trek anywhere but the closest field + forest.
on July 20, 2015
Took me several viewings over a year to get this one... very, very subtle. 2 go into desert wilderness, 1 emerges. This is a story about the major jihad, the inner struggle between ego (Casey) and our higher purpose spirit (Matt).
on November 7, 2015
If you like the desert, the views are gorgeous, but this is not for those who like "typical" movies. It purposely moves slowly - VERY slowly. The ending is surprising, sad, poignant and disturbing.
on September 9, 2006
I bought this DVD because I thought it would be a survival story, showing the emotional turmoil of being lost in the desert. I think it really fails on that account; The two men never seemed to get very angry at each other, or even at their situation, nor did the movie show any elation at finally finding civilization. It was unclear to me if one man died, but if he did the other Gerry sure didn't show much emotion about it.
Another thing I found curious was that their beards didn't seem to grow much for being lost for days in the desert. They did not seem show any desperation for water, either.
The best I can say about this movie is that it does show spectacular desert scenery. One other thing I did appreciate about the movie is that I could do other things while the movie was playing and I wasn't afraid of missing anything. In short, maybe this DVD is best played when one is alone. but doesn't want to feel alone, while they read a magazine or an Amazon.com book.
on July 18, 2005
I live in the American West. "Gerry" is not set, or shot, in my state--portions of the film were shot as far away as South America--but the scenery is as sandy, as desiccated, as covered in sage brush and scrubby little plants as the view from my window. Is it premature to say that "Gerry" is the great contemporary "Western" film? When we think of the classical Western genre we almost always envision Clint Eastwood and John Wayne interpretating legendary or infamous characters in America's past. "Gerry" does not belong to the classical Western genre; look at its stars.
"Gerry" is a Western film by virtue of its setting, but it is emphatically in the present tense. The shots tend to be long--so long that you could easily get up, go to the bathroom, and come back with the camera focused on exactly the same thing. But if you were misguided enough to take your eyes off the screen for that long, you would miss something: namely, the sheer duration of the shot, and everything you would notice during it. The five- or six-minute opening shot of the car on the road is infamous, and it deserves to be. But a five- or six-SECOND shot of that same car, which would have been the norm, would also have been a different kind of statement. If you are looking at a shot of a car on the road for five or six minutes, that car becomes "real" for you in a way that a five- or six-second car does not. You notice little things like the variable height of the fender, the uneven paint job, the way the distance between the car and the camera wavers. (In fact, this film makes a certain kind of viewer frighteningly aware of what the camera is doing.) I can't say that the film shows the director's technical skill, since it is not difficult, in a technical sense, to film a car for five or six minutes--anyone with a camera can do that. What the film does show is the director's artistic sense, and it is impeccable. He juxtaposes long shots intelligently and not gratuitously.
The humor is not subtle, but it works. My favorite juxtaposition: Gerry-Affleck suggests that they follow a set of animal tracks in search of water, and Gerry-Damon agrees. The next shot shows them in a desert--hah!--after who knows how many hours of trudging, and the animal tracks have disappeared. The irony is wonderful. The sudden jump in scenery makes the viewer feel as lost as the Gerrys; but the viewer also gets to laugh at the situation in a way that the Gerrys never do. (So is this a variation on the classical Western genre? If you wanted to make a movie about people who live in the American West today, what would have to be your point? Something about the harshness of nature, the aridity of human relations, the failure of humans to harmonize with the environment and the consequences of that failure. Van Sant, who is not always a sure thing, has nevertheless managed to do this film beautifully.)
I only have two complaints about the film itself: the ending veers toward a cruel kind of irony (as opposed to the amusing kind of irony I liked so much in the early parts of the film); and the occasional panning shot seems a failure of artistry. Little quibbles. The DVD version is superior to the VHS version, because the DVD version is wide-screen (and the real star of the movie is the scenery--the humans never had a chance). The soundtrack is also superior in the DVD version (Van Sant joins T. Malick and other directors who have used the music of Arvo Part to great effect).
I think everyone interested in what's happening in contemporary film should see this. It's the real thing.