Reviewed by Ian Forbes
I took it upon myself to review Violet & Daisy with very little knowledge about the film ahead of time. All I knew is that it was about two teenage hitgirls played by Alexis Bledel & Saoirse Ronan. If nothing else, it sounded different. And it is.
Right from the start, there’s a deadpan tone to the proceedings that’s a cross between Pulp Fiction, D.E.B.S., and Kick-Ass. That’s far from surprising considering the subject material and main characters but writer/director Geoffrey Fletcher certainly embraced that mood and used it as a foil to counterbalance the themes on display. Best known as the Oscar winning screenwriter for Precious, Fletcher wasn’t adapting any material this time around. This is an original script, though it still echoes certain elements of that work; his romanticized view of New York, and what it is to be faced with uncommon obstacles one must overcome to get a taste of what lies on the other side.
Casting Bledel and Ronan is both fitting and counter-intuitive. Bledel has always been the sweet, precocious girl – most evident in her best known role on TV’s Gilmore Girls. I’ve never thought much of her film acting but it works within the context of this film and I’m also amazed on how close in age she appears to be to Ronan, despite a 13-year age gap. Saoirse is the chameleon of the two, rocketing into the limelight with her impressive performance in Atonement and doing such an amazing job of choosing projects and roles that would allow for variety and showcase her talents. She once again fully dissolves into her character and is simply the best actress of her generation.
Their chemistry works quite well and using such fresh, young faces to exhibit the duality of the characters allows the offbeat tone to work. Throwing in James Gandolfini as a mark that throws the pair for a loop elevates the project from simple bubble gum exploitation into a character study triptych. With most of the proceedings taking place inside Gandolfini’s apartment, watching each of them navigate some emotional stumbling block as a result of their situation is the primary goal for Fletcher and he succeeds in doing that.
Interspersing surrealist elements, macabre humor, and elaborate dream sequences, the film takes on a lyrical quality. I found myself wandering away from the proceedings about two-thirds of the way through because I can only take so much deadpan (part of my problem with identifying with Wes Anderson films) but came back into it by the end; aided in some degree by an inspired inclusion of Sarah McLachlan’s instrumental piece Last Dance during a pivotal scene.
What’s nice about such small, independent features is the ability for the filmmaker to present their vision without fear or worry that it won’t appeal to the masses. There’s no point in worrying if Peoria, Illinois will understand or appreciate it, all that matters is for Fletcher to project his story onto the screen and he’s done it here.
That being said, Violet & Daisy isn’t for everyone. It crosses so many genre boundaries that trying to pin down a demographic is near impossible; suffice to say that this is skewed more for the art house crowd. Being so far outside of the conventional mainstream formula and format, casual moviegoers may likely dismiss this, or not find it enjoyable to dig through the symbolism or discuss the unanswered elements.
I’m not even exactly sure whether I would have preferred the movie be a more simple and light piece of entertainment. I did enjoy the performances, especially that of Ronan and Gandolfini. It left me in a pensive mood and even though it wasn’t what I was looking for on that particular night, I think any movie that makes me think is a good thing. It will be interesting to see if Bledel takes this opportunity to choose or attempt more daring roles and I’ll just continue watching Ronan’s star rise as the only thing standing in the way of her continuing to impress is her own willingness to keep acting; and I for one hope she keeps at it for a long, long time.
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