**** - excellent
After his other 2003 release, Elephant, made its way to the Cannes Film Festival (where it eventually won the two top prizes), Gus Van Sant declared he was through with traditional narrative. Once a defining figure of American independant cinema with his earlier features, Gus Van Sant eventually shifted into traditional Hollywood filmmaking, undoubtedly to make an easy buck. While those films display an ability to solidly piece a film together - Van Sant's roots had obviously been cut. While Elephant (which I have not yet seen and will in the coming weeks) may have been hailed by many as Van Sant's true return to form, but his previous and generally overlooked feature, Gerry, is technically his actual return to less commercial cinema.
Gerry can't really be described as a "return to form", because the "form" shown isn't similar to his earlier features. Gerry is a slow, pondering and seemingly plotless film - My Own Private Idaho and (especially) Drugstore Cowboy have a vibrance and narrative youthful energy that Gerry definitely lacks. While his earlier features had an original and exciting quality to them - that also revealed some emotional truths that marks My Own Private Idaho as a masterpiece - Gerry is a welcome, and no less exciting, step in a different direction.
The comparatively-slow placing of the film has been an audience (and critical) hurdle for it, of sorts. When viewing the film, I initially was at a loss as to why - there are leagues of films that are comparable in their pacing that haven't been as nearly controversial or divisive. I suppose viewers looking for the "latest Matt Damon flick" were caught off guard by Gerry's non-traditional narrative, but the critics who cry in boredom over several-minutes-long-takes seem a little less likely to have issue with the pacing - as many have seen, as part of their job description, the likes of comparably-slow What Times it it There? or Secret Ballot.