Film review: Gerry

Published: Friday, April 18 2003 7:55 a.m. MDT

On television, the long-running sitcom "Seinfeld" joked that it was a show about nothing. But the new movie "Gerry" really is about nothing.

In this largely improvised drama, nothing happens. Seriously. The film is made up of seemingly endless scenes in which two men — or, to be more accurate, two idiots — walk in the desert, talking about matters so trivial and inconsequential that audience attention is bound to wander.

Consequently, the whole thing becomes an exercise in tedium. And though the film is shorter than two hours, it's so sluggishly paced and uninteresting that it feels as if it's actually several days long. (In fact, it's one of the few movies that manages to feel longer than this year's bloated Civil War epic "Gods and Generals").

However, you can't say the movie is completely worthless. After all, it's handsomely photographed (in such scenic locations as Death Valley and southern Utah). But locations alone can't make up for the lack of plot and characters.

The film's title refers to the nickname the two characters have for one another. We never really do learn their real names, so for the sake of clarity, let's refer to them as Gerry 1 and Gerry 2.

These two twentysomethings are on a hiking trip in the desert, when Gerry 1 (Matt Damon) becomes irked at the number of other, less serious hikers around them. So he suggests that they stray off the path a little.

Bad idea. Within minutes the two men find themselves off the path more than just a little. Worse, they become disoriented and are unable to find the spot where they left the established trail.

If you couldn't already guess, these are two of the dumbest characters in recent cinematic history — a pair of dullards who head off into the desert without provisions, proper clothing or maps. And they're completely unable to navigate their environment, even by using the sun's ascent and descent as direction.

They're also so one-dimen-sional that we're completely unable to sympathize with them. But that's only the start of the film's problems. Director Gus Van Sant purposely gave Affleck and Damon (also the co-screenwriters) room to improvise. But neither star can come up with anything interesting to say or do.

"Gerry" is rated R for frequent use of strong sex-related profanity, use of some crude sexual slang terms and a brief scene of violence (a scuffle). Running time: 103 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com

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