Another title could be Violent & Daffy, but it’s also volant and dazzling.
When writer/director Geoffrey Fletcher introduced this movie, his directorial debut, at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011, he told the audience to keep an open mind; he said the filmmakers were shooting for something different. Naturally, that comment generated some nervous chatter and chuckles. Asking a film festival crowd to be open-minded is inviting the expectation for something heinously misguided.
Maybe that was Fletcher’s nefarious plan, to throw off expectations; it’s a doubtful idea, but maybe, just maybe.
Nonetheless, the magical part is Fletcher and his crew succeeded and created a movie that challenges all sane moral sensibilities while still winning with a real sense of heart for the lead characters. This, after all, comes from the guy who won an Oscar for his screenplay adaptation of Push, the novel by Sapphire that became the movie Precious, a tough drama that managed to find an incredible amount of humor and heart in a desperate setting.
Violet & Daisy is a mini masterpiece about two assassins who stumble upon their toughest assignment yet: They need to kill a guy who wants to die. It’s a far cry from their usual missions, which involve blazing guns amid props like nun habits, pizza delivery boxes, and tricycles.
As it happens, the two hired guns are young girls who’ve taken this cakewalk assignment in order to get the cash needed to buy the new dress designed by their favorite pop star, Barbie Sunday. If only they hadn’t already blown their money on rent again, they’d be stylin’.
Those two girls are played to perfection by the stunningly blue-eyed Alexis Bledel (TV’s Gilmore Girls) as Violet and the ridiculously talented Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) as Daisy. Sure, they’re both easy on the eyes, but they both demonstrate the not-so-easy talent of delivering funny lines straight-faced and without letting the characters realize they are really funny. They’re both innocents, but while Daisy is a freshly-minted 18-year-old, Violet’s already been subjected to her share of nastiness.
If it helps, consider this as a sugar-coated spin on Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre of violence and foul mouths. It even finds its own mark of humor on the title card, which in very fine print notes the movie is presented in nifty color and spectacular 2D.
These girls are finding their way in a tough world dominated by men. But they also realize “everything’s a test when you’re a career woman.”
The biggest mistake would be to take this movie purely at face value. Think of this as a parable as these two young ladies make their way through the emotionally turbulent, materialistically-driven world of teenage angst and growing pains. This is the story of female empowerment that Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch wanted to be, but here it’s told much more effectively and intimately - and on a much smaller budget.
There’s something theatrical about the staging. Set primarily in an apartment, the bulk of the action takes the form of witty dialogue and character revelations among Violet, Daisy, and their mysterious target (James Gandolfini, TV’s The Sopranos).
Given the narrative structure and the two girls’ infatuation with a pop star, this movie could easily take the stage as either a dramatic comedy, perhaps along the lines of Orphans, or as a full-blown musical (think Assassins meets Mamma Mia!).
The pop culture sensibilities are all there to be mined more fully. At one point Violet compliments her own work by describing it as, potentially, her Mona Lisa if not her Billy Jean.
Violet & Daisy is a fanciful spin on the macho movie. It’s a pretty easy argument to make that women are the stronger sex and that notion is deftly put in a different light when, during their mission debriefing, Daisy gently plays paddy cake with her handler. It’s a scene that would never make it into an Expendables adventure. Roger Rabbit, yes. Expendables, no.
During another summer that’s hungry for something fresh while the comic book characters of yore strut their stuff once again and Star Trek cannibalizes itself with a retread storyline, Violet & Daisy is an antidote to summer sameness. Sure, it’s not for everybody. But, between Frances Ha and Violet & Daisy, the ladies are cornering the market with the summer’s freshest material.