‘Violet & Daisy’ an offbeat triumph for first-time director Geoffrey Fletcher
BY MARY HOULIHAN June 6, 2013 4:22PM
‘VIOLET & DAISY’ ★★★
Violet Alexis Bledel
Daisy Saoirse Ronan
Michael James Gandolfini
Russ Danny Trejo
Iris Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Cinedigm Entertainment presents a film written and directed by Geoffrey Fletcher. Running time: 88 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opening Friday at 600 N. Michigan.
Updated: July 8, 2013 6:06AM
When we first meet Violet and Daisy, they are dressed as chatty, gum-chewing nuns, carrying pizza boxes as if they’re headed to a costume party. Soon it’s revealed they are teenage assassins — and on the job.
Yes, Violet (Alexis Bledel) and Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) kill for living. They’re also typical teens obsessed with pop idol Barbie Sunday and her designer clothing line. On the verge of retiring, they decide to perform one last kill to pay for new dresses. It’s a decision that takes them emotionally to unexpected territory.
“Violet & Daisy” is billed as an action-comedy but it’s more of a coming-of-age story, albeit told in a very unusual way. This marks the directorial debut for Geoffrey Fletcher, winner of the 2010 best adapted screenplay Oscar for “Precious.” He tells an unconventional story in an absorbing, surreal manner; anything can happen here especially when you least expect it.
These deadly young adults exist in another dimension of comic-book coolness. They roam an unnamed city, filled with saturated colors, where they take down swarms of bad guys. Fletcher’s fight scenes display the heavy influence of Quentin Tarantino’s post-modern vibe. The carnage is precisely choreographed to vintage pop songs.
After Violet and Daisy accept that one last lucrative job from their handler (Danny Trejo), he assures them that it will be a quick and easy hit. They think “things will change for us after we get the dresses” but the real changes begin when they meet their next target, Michael (James Gandolfini), a wounded soul looking for a way out of this world.
He’s not home when they get to his apartment, and the girls fall asleep on his couch. When they awaken, he’s sitting in a chair, watching them. He stole a lot of money from a mobster; he’d been expecting them. Well, not exactly them, but someone like them.
They’ve never spoken to a mark before, and once they do, there’s no going back. He makes them cookies; they talk. He’s not the typical bad guy they’re used to confronting. He refuses to reveal “his story” and the reason behind stealing the money (it’s not what you think). Now they can’t kill him until they “know his deal.”
Questions are left unanswered about the girls’ pasts as well. When he asks Violet about her parents, a look in her eyes reveals her past could be her weakness. And it’s never explained why the younger Daisy, who just turned 18, became involved with this violent world.
Fletcher’s decision to cast against type is a smart twist. It’s interesting to see Bledel become Rory with a gun. In a movie with Tony Soprano, it’s a Gilmore Girl who is the most unhinged character. Bledel plays Violet with youthful innocence and glint-in-the-eye deadliness. Ronan, who played another intriguing young assassin in “Hanna,” is equally as interesting here as she supplies Daisy with equal amounts of existential whimsy and practicality.
It’s nice to see Gandolfini step out of his tough-guy gangster roles and into the shoes of this gentle, sad and wise man who helps Violet and Daisy see the bigger picture. His paternal scenes, especially with Ronan, are heartwarming and offbeat.
“Violet & Daisy” won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The girls’ ability to move between lost innocence to action superstars is often jolting. Of course, the violence is cringe-worthy and, at times, over the top. But view this as a modern comic book/fairy tale, and it’s easier to accept this saga of girls with guns and the life lessons they eventually confront.