— 2002, directed by Gus Van Sant, starring Matt Damon and Casey Affleck
I used to say that I could watch Matt Damon read the telephone book and still be entertained. At times this film sorely tests that statement. At other times, however, it’s a stunning achievement. It’s the story (if you can call it that) of two men lost on an innocent hike, and covers their three days wandering the desert. Casey Affleck (otherwise known as the one who isn’t marrying Jennifer Lopez), Matt Damon, and Van Sant are all given writing credits.
Touted as Van Sant’s return to “art” films after Finding Forrester and Good Will Hunting, Gerry is minimalist to the point that it put several people in the theater with me to sleep. It tests your patience, certainly. In a world full of ten-second shots and jump cuts, Gerry’s several-minute-long shots seem like an eternity. Each cut jars you, feels like it was somehow put there for a reason, even though you can’t quite figure out that reason.
Though I think almost half the movie was taken up with time-lapse shots of the landscape of the desert, and some of the mostly improvised dialogue seems more forced than the most scripted of films, there are moments of exquisite beauty here as well. The best acting in this film comes out when they aren’t talking, as in one shot where a camera slowly revolves around Affleck as a single tear rolls down his cheek. Its impact is that it makes you feel something of what it must be like to be lost in the desert, where every minute under the hot sun without water feels like an eternity. It might not be fun to watch, but the more I thought about it, the more it grew on me. Just make sure you’re not too thirsty if you go to see it. This movie made me feel, rather than think, but sometimes that’s a good thing.