Violet & Daisy (2011)

This is another film I had never even heard of till stumbling upon it a few weeks ago. And my impression is that very few people know of this film’s existence. That is probably largely due to the fact that it has not had a nation-wide cinema release in the US, and in fact very few releases world-wide. Which is a great shame and can only be explained by someone in the marketing-distribution-chain having screwed up big time. Admittedly, it probably was difficult to market as it is rather unique and difficult to define. That also means that people do not know what to expect when watching it, and hence it has an undeservedly low imdb-rating at 6.1. In my opinion, this film is easily a 7.0, if not a 7.5.

One of the film’s strengths is its perfect cast. That the two lead actresses, Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel, are incredibly talented is probably well-known. In addition, this film has the bonus of having some veteran character actors in minor or cameo roles, and it features a stellar performance by the late James Gandolfini in a major supporting role so vast and crucial that you could justly call him the third lead of this film.

This film received a lot of love from audiences at the festivals it was playing at. But I guess inevitable comparisons with Hanna (2011) probably hurt this film’s critical reception? Saoirse Ronan as a trained teenage killer again? In combination with the fact that Hanna has much more of the stuff that critics love – you just get much more respect from the reviewers for a well-written character study than for a pulp fiction story. So when most reviewers got hold of Violet & Daisy (around 2013) they still had Hanna rather fresh on their mind, and a number of undeservedly negative reviews started to come in. But this film is not Hanna, it does not try to be Hanna, and the films are so different in every respect that there is basically no ground for comparison. So in my book any reviewer basing their review of Violet & Daisy on their high opinion of Hanna is failing in their job.
Hanna was a deep though impenetrable character study. Violet & Daisy may be a lot of things, but it is not that. Even though it tries at times to be gentle and tentatively emotional, what it chiefly is is heaps of fun. As they recently said on the Silver Screen Snobs podcast regarding Focus (2015): “we need more dumb fun made by intelligent people”.
And in my opinion this is precisely what
Violet & Daisy is. In the hand of a less talented man this film could have easily gone wrong, but writer/director Geoffrey Fletcher found pretty much the right balance between all of the film’s elements.

As I said, Violet & Daisy was probably difficult to market, because it is rather difficult to properly define its genre. I will try and give you as good an idea as possible of what this film is like.
Its sub-genre is that of a hit-man film. Someone is always out to kill someone else in this film. Aesthetically, this includes a lot of deliberately silly shoot-out scenes, of the kind where people just won’t stop running or threatening you even though they have already been hit by 30 bullets. This should also tell you that, although there is comparatively little blood splatter, this may not the ideal film for faint-hearted people.

The tone of the first half of this film is that of a black comedy, created by the creepy teenage protagonists, who are very independent and fiercely competent with weapons, but are at the same time incredibly childish and immature up to the point of making you feel they might be “retarded”, mainly emotionally but also otherwise. But mixed in with the black comedy, the humour is also surreal and absurdist, thanks Gandolfini’s character, and thanks to many writing/directing choices that include impossible or absurd turns of events, and often resemble Pulp Fiction (the Travolta/Jackson bits).
In fact, thinking of Travolta’s and Jackson’s characters from Pulp Fiction and then trying to picture them as teenage girls might actually be a good way for you to get an idea of the tone of the main part of this film. However, it is also important to point out that this is not one of those films where the writer/director desperately tries to be Tarantino – this is another mistake made by many critics who reviewed Violet & Daisy: however strong the influences, Geoffrey Fletcher does not try to be anyone but himself.

The tone shifts towards the second half and acquires elements of a highly unusual coming-of-age story. In short, the majority of the film tells us the story of one particular job of Violet and Daisy, one particular meeting with one special person, and how that meeting affects some changes in them. Apart from these changes that the film hints at, the story in the end does not really go anywhere (as is often the case with pulp fiction stories), and it does not really have an ending. But it for sure is one hell of a story with two protagonists you are not likely to forget soon.

Tonal shifts are always tricky, and I can understand why some people may have a problem with this one. For me, however, it works; better than the kind-of-open ending which is something I always struggle with.
The only real criticism I can throw at this film is the fact that it includes a few elements that seem overly “artsy” – two or three omens and dream sequences that are not really going anywhere and give you the impression that the writer/director is “trying too hard”.

I tried my best to represent the tone and atmosphere of Violet & Daisy as well as possible. If you believe you might like it, I urge you to give it a try. It may not be the best film I have seen recently, but I still had more fun with this film than with any other film in the past few months.

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