‘Violet & Daisy’ movie review: Saoirse Ronan, Alexis Bledel in a precocious little riff

A precocious, pretentious little piffle from writer and debut director Geoffrey Fletcher (the Oscar-winning scribe of Precious), Violet & Daisy is the kind of Tarantino-esque Pulp Fiction “cool” riff they just don’t make any more – and for good reason. Hell, even Tarantino doesn’t make this kind of thing any longer. 

Alexis Bledel is Violet. Saoirse Ronan is Daisy. They’re a pair of teenage assassins who, well… imagine Jules and Vincent as a couple of fifteen year old girls, and you get the picture. In the film’s opening scene, they manage to wipe out a room full of thugs with nary a scratch, rescue a hostage, and walk away without drawing police attention. 

All through cool slo-mo shots featuring the girls in nun outfits with a gun in each hand, large men clutching their chests and keeling over in perfectly choreographed fashion, while the girls walk towards the camera and don’t even glance back.

Sigh. Already, I knew what kind of film we were in for. What I didn’t know was how plotless and generally pointless it would be. There’s barely a story going here at all; at 88 minutes, the film feels a good half hour longer than it actually is; halfway through, it begins to feel oppressive.

Saving grace: James Gandolfini, who has a significant role as Michael, the man the two girls are sent to kill (as, of course, a ‘final mission’ before retirement. Why take the job? Because they need money to buy the new Barbara Sunday dress.) 

Gandolfini is lost in a sea of unbelievable characters who spout unbelievable dialogue, playing a man dying of cancer who has stolen from the mob in order to ensure his own death at the hands of these teenage assassins. 

Still, he’s easily the best thing about the movie: as a tragic figure that might otherwise seem out of place, the actor somehow manages to generate genuine sympathy through those deep, sad eyes that belie his formidable stature. It’s the same kind of contradiction that allowed us to care about a man like Tony Soprano. 

Here, however, Gandolfini has nothing to play against, nothing else “real” that could grab our affection or even attention: the two leads, their story, all the mafia assassin bullshit – it’s all a masturbatory fantasy that throws the teenage killers into a blender with guns, lollipops, bright-red lipstick, knee-high stockings, nun outfits, and vinyl records, and turns the setting to “hipster cool”. 

Tone is a real casualty. Is this supposed to be a comedy? Drama? Fantasy? I’m guessing the latter: it’s too straight-faced to be funny, and too weird to be relatable. It’s almost like Larry Bishop’s (infamous) Mad Dog Time, which used the excuse of being set in a world that looks like ours, but was completely different, to account for the fact that everything was so damn weird, and everyone behaved in a way that we couldn’t understand. Ultimately, this movie is just so distant that we fail to interact with it in any meaningful way.

Violet and Daisy wear the numbers 8 and 9 – their rankings in the world of professional assassins. Marianne Jean-Baptiste shows up briefly as the mysterious Number 1. The idea of the hitman ranking system was first introduced in Seijin Suzuki’s Branded to Kill, a manic and outlandish masterpiece so unconventional that it got the director fired from Nikkatsu studio. 

I imagine this is the kind of film that Nikkatsu was looking for: an outlandish script with fantastic, satirical elements, presented in the most bland and predictable way possible. 

Violet & Daisy premiered at the Toronto Film Festival nearly two years ago, in September, 2011, before finally receiving a limited release stateside and in a few international markets this summer. It’s easy to see why this thing has been kicking around so long.

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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