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  Gerry The Wilderness Days
Year: 2002
Director: Gus Van Sant
Stars: Casey Affleck, Matt Damon
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Gerry (Casey Affleck) and Gerry (Matt Damon) are driving along a desert highway to reach what they hope will be an adventure in the great outdoors. They pull up at a sign marked "Wilderness Trail" and get out, looking forward to a healthy and improving walk, but they are unaware they are unprepared for the journey ahead, with no food on their persons and only a bottle of water each to drink. The point of the trek is to get to the "thing" and they follow the trail through the brush and dust, but after a while they begin to regard this as too much like hard work and double back to return their car. Only - are they still following the trail? Where is the trail, anyway? Come to think of it, where are Gerry and Gerry heading? Are they, as they start to suspect, lost?

Gerry was one of director Gus Van Sant's loose trilogy of films that included the Columbine shootings-inspired Elephant and the Kurt Cobain-inspired Last Days, all of which took a sense of despair and approaching death to an apparently aimless and vague plot. Filmed in various scenic locations in Death Valley, Jordan and Argentina, this story can be summed up with two men wandering out of doors for about a hundred minutes. The script, although much of it seems improvised, was written by Van Sant and his two stars, and lends itself to much interpretation: do the Gerrys represent mankind losing its way? America losing its way? Or simply two dimwits losing their way? And is that a form of sacrifice the film ends with?

Once the protagonists realise they are lost, we quickly see they would never make good boy scouts, and if they were ever told that motto of "Be Prepared" obviously it never sunk in. You may recall an episode of the comedy series Stella where the three main characters went on a camping trip and got lost after about five minutes and soon were sporting long beards and torn clothes. Even if you don't, this is like the serious version of that and just as absurd, although lasting much longer, with dialogue that is singularly unenlightening: the Matt Damon Gerry describing a contestant getting the answer wrong on a game show he has recently watched, for example, is as deep as it gets.

Many have criticised Gerry for being boring, but I would counter that by saying, no, it's not boring enough. If you're going to make a film about two blokes wandering hopelessly in the desert, then put it across at a more tedious, trance-inducing length; it was apparently inspired by the films of Béla Tarr, so really should have lasted about three hours at least. In one scene, the Casey Affleck Gerry ends up stuck on top of a large rock and the Matt Damon Gerry has to make sure he has a soft landing when he jumps off by making a pile of soft dust beneath him. Too interesting! If you really must put one of them on top of a big rock, have him take about half an hour to climb off of it. Later, there's a mirage where the Damon Gerry appears to be simultaneously walking towards the Affleck Gerry and sitting beside him. Again, too interesting! In the boredom stakes, this film is a cop out, and is more like watching two clockwork toys gradually winding down: you don't get as lost in it as they do.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Gus Van Sant  (1952 - )

Vaguely arty American director whose films rarely seem quite as satisfying as they should. Drugstore Cowboy remains his best effort, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues undoubtedly his worst. My Own Private Idaho, To Die For, Columbine shootings-based Elephant and Kurt Cobain-inspired Last Days have their fans, and Good Will Hunting was a big success, but the scene-for-scene Psycho remake must be his oddest venture. After a decade of experimentation, including desert trek oddity Gerry, he returned to the mainstream in 2008 with the award-winning biopic Milk then reverted to smaller projects once more, including biopic Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot.

 
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