Violet and Daisy is the directorial debut of Geoffrey Fletcher, and an extremely self-assured one. But it isn’t his first high-profile project: Fletcher won the 2010 screenwriting Oscar for Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire.
Violet and Daisy is a whole different kind of precious.
While both are coming-of-age stories centered on teen girls, and both are set in a violent subset of New York, the two films couldn’t be more different. Precious dished out a bit more reality than most of its audience had ever taken in. Violet and Daisy is a stylized grab bag of aesthetic references, with dialogue and a setting steeped in artifice. Violet (Alexis Bledel) and Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) are teen assassins, masters of their craft in an imaginary Manhattan apparently teeming with gangs of wet-work specialists. Popping their gum while gunning down rooms full of men, these girls exist in a twee bubble of lollipops and long shiny hair belied by the hardware in their hands and the blood on the walls. Two movies that came to mind while watching were Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Rian Johnson’s 2005 teen noir Brick; both films presented their own skewed version of reality, as does Violet and Daisy.
Other films came to mind, of course. If Pulp Fiction’s Jules and Vincent were giggly teenagers (instead of Samuel Jackson and John Travolta), telling long jokey anecdotes while blasting away, they’d be Vi and Daze. And the kiddier end of the Wes Anderson spectrum – Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore, the childhood flashbacks of The Royal Tenenbaums – offers a similarly candy-colored, idealized imaginary world.
The plot is paper-thin – the girls get a routine job that goes awry – a mere pretext to present this incongruous parallel reality and these irresistible girls. And they are irresistible. Depending on your cinematic tastes, Violet and Daisy may justify its existence simply by weaving this dream world (helped along immeasurably by Patrizia Von Brandenstein’s production design, Vanja Cernjul’s cinematography and Paul Cantelon’s score). But if you require grounding in emotional reality, this may not be your vintage cup of Orangina. These assassins resemble characters from a children’s book — they are girls, not women. It’s kind of a genius conceit, really; nothing in the world has the arrow-straight righteousness of a 13-year-old girl.
Bledel and Ronan carry the film, with one or both in every single scene. James Gandolfini, in wise-and-cuddly mode, exists mostly as a sounding board for the two girls, and other characters have the unreality of grownups in a Charlie Brown TV special – just obstacles for the girls to get around. There are good ones (they bake you cookies) and bad ones (they call you a cunt in the street), but this film’s universe is limited to these two girls (another neat trick, as it mirrors the way the world feels to a solipsistic teenager).
Bledel, as Violet, the slightly senior assassin, does a deft job of conveying trouble rippling beneath her wise-cracking, tough-talking fresh-faced surface, while Ronan is so supernaturally innocent and unworldly that Daisy would be beyond any suspension of disbelief if Ronan weren’t so skilled. In her Gracie Allen-esque bit in the opening scene, exhibiting a naiveté utterly nonexistent in any 18-year-old now alive, she has the difficult job of setting the tone of Fletcher’s imaginary world for the audience, and whether you can swallow that tone or not, Ronan pulls it off.
A film review shouldn’t be a catalog of comparisons … but a film shouldn’t be one either, and Violet and Daisy is a perfect film for a culture weaned on Amazon product pages, Google search hits and related content modules. V&D is RIYL Kill Bill’s Gogo Yubari, Belle & Sebastian vinyl, Rookiemag.com, knee socks and oatmeal cookies. Whether or not to click is up to the viewer.