When actress-turned-singer Lola Kirke slinks around in a blonde wig and tan trench coat, scaling the side of a building before jumping onto a motorcycle in her latest film, Gemini, she was envisioning an image of a strong and powerful woman. Kirke stars as Jill LeBeau, the devoted, yet tenacious personal assistant to acclaimed Hollywood actress, Heather Anderson (played by the illustrious Zoë Kravitz). A major character death in the first act spurs the rest of the film’s plot, but the movie comes across less murder mystery than a dramatic exploration between two nuanced, flawed anti-heroines, who trade sleeping over at each other’s houses and talk about potentially starting their own business someday. Neither character falls into one-dimensional tropes of vapid celebrity and her humble assistant—Heather is more good-natured, albeit lost, than what you would expect from a starlet and Jill is a far cry from a meek and subservient sidekick. As the film’s murder plot unravels, the pair learns more about friendship, image, and celebrity.
In review for the film, critic Anthony Lane focused less on Kirke’s idea of a strong, empowered woman and more on her appearance: “She’s sporting the haircut from hell—brown bangs cut straight across, as if by a six-year-old with blunt scissors,” he wrote. In response, Kirke penned a letter to the editor calling Lane out. “I am disappointed by Anthony Lane’s glib criticism of my character’s appearance,” she wrote. “To even mention my ‘haircut from hell’ is to miss the point of my performance entirely. We need to see female characters be powerful and beautiful in ways that don’t rely on outdated representations of women.”
The battle for equal representation of women’s bodies in mainstream media has been fraught with gradual, albeit steady progress (Kirke’s older sister, Jemima, starred as Jessa on Lena Dunham’s HBO series, Girls, which was often credited for normalizing different female body types on television). “There is a pressure to be thin and flawless that is really, really slowly changing,” Kirke tells CR. “There are definitely figures over the past decade that have opened the gates to body positivity where actresses who weigh 150 pounds are no longer considered curvy, because that’s unbelievable. I’m constantly looking for actresses that look real to me. And a lot of people are naturally thin or naturally strong and that’s great, but a lot of people also aren’t so I’m impatient to see different kinds of bodies.”
Kirke herself wants to see curvy women in entertainment, not as tokenized characters who focus solely on their weight, but as the multi-faceted love interest or the sex symbol. She wants it to be easier for women to get films made and for movies like Black Panther to become the norm rather than the exception.
“I think the mold needs to be broken and I’m just so excited about that movie existing even though I’m pretty late to the party,” she says. “It’s no wonder that women’s rights are constantly threatened when we have white men at the helm of media, because we’re not representing women in a thorough way.”
Her brief turn as Amy Dunne’s friend-turned-thief Greta in David Fincher’s Gone Girl earned her mainstream recognition, but her longtime exposure to the acting world (her other older sister, Domino, is also a singer and actress), gave Kirke a voracious appetite for strong, diverse female characters and roles that she can really sink her teeth into—exactly the type of character she plays in Gemini. By teaming up with indie filmmaker Aaron Katz, whose blue-tinged visuals, synthy score, and upside-down palm trees, basked against the L.A. night sky, harkens back to David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, Kirke was able to delve into the complicated, murkier nature of celebrity—even if she can’t completely relate with her real-life experiences in Hollywood.
“What the movie definitely got right is how small the life of celebrities can really be,” she says. “We imagine that they have these really big lives, but we culturally kind of quarantine our famous people as demigods. I also really like the way it got to the self-infantilization of a lot of celebrities and the way that assistants play many roles. It shows this other, shadowy side and focused on the people that we don’t see.”
The multi-hyphenate also recently unveiled the music video for her new song “Monster,” back in March, which will appear in her upcoming debut album. Shot against the resplendent city lights in Japan, the clip features Kirke donning a retro-inspired red dress and ringlets in her hair. The alt-country track, rife with Kirke’s breathy vocals and twangy guitar riffs, speaks of the singer’s need to find her place in the world. “I’m not a monster,” she sings. “I’m just someone who wants to belong.”
Despite Kirke’s immersion in music from a young age, looking to artists including the Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, and Graham Parsons for inspiration, she feels much less comfortable onstage than she does in front of a camera for the silver screen. The aforementioned musicians evoke the genre of Americana, rock and roll, and folk tradition—areas in which the singer is excited to explore for herself through music.
“As an actor, I’ve always been drawn to performance,” she says. “I have markedly less confidence as a musician than I feel like I do as an actor, but I’m trying to kind of locate that same confidence I felt onstage as an actor and bring it onstage. A lot of musicians who are performers have some kind of public persona or schtick, but I spend a lot of time as an actor in different characters and I would prefer to just be myself when I’m playing music.”
PHOTOGRAPHS JODY ROGAC
FASHION CARINE ROITFELD
CREATIVE DIRECTION THE STYLE COUNCIL PARIS
HAIR JEROME CULTRERA
MAKEUP GRACE ANH
MANICURE MEI KAWAJIRI
CASTING EVELIEN JOOS
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