Geoffrey Fletcher won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Precious but his feature directorial debut is as far as possible from the gritty realities of that picture. A dreamlike account of the friendship of two teen assassins—and the one hit they take too personally—Violet & Daisy meditates on the troubles of daughterhood and fatherhood, and in the process puts soft edges on all the sharply dynamic visuals Quentin Tarantino made famous and splashy with 1995's Pulp Fiction. Seriously, they do everything but say "Honeybunny." The balance of naivete and insularly sweet exchanges are pleasing and comical but the film's painfully derivative. At least the actors are great and well cast, with James Gandolfini as the most nuanced standout, but this smacks of cutrate Quentin T., demonstrating that Fletcher can pull together a team of great professionals, if only he had any specific talent to direct them. Regardless, this type of crime comedy is alluring to teens and likely to much of the same audience flocked to Kick-Ass so it's too broadly marketable to sit on the shelf all that long. Distro and mild box office are likely.
Violet (Alexis Bledel) once had a hitman partner named Rose. The girls were good at their job but Rose's death is a tender spot. Her replacement, Daisy (Saorsie Ronan), is a naïf and Violet protects her like a little sister. After they tear down some random bad guys and retrieve a hapless hostage (oh, and adopt the bad guy's newly orphaned puppy), they celebrate Daisy's 18th birthday. The girls only have each other, and perhaps that has something to do with the eerily empty city they live in. They're #9 and #8 on the roster of assassins—good enough, but #1 is so good at the job she's like a ghost. Daisy calls her a legend. The numbering and the weirdly vacant island they're on makes the whole thing feel a little like BBC's The Prisoner, but instead of following a seeker who wants out, we're following two innocents who think they've mastered the system. The gunfights are taxing but don't seem to wear them down, yet as they're looking forward to time off, they're reluctant to take their latest job. The mark: a middle aged sad sack who has deliberately taken loans out from crime bosses because he wants to get popped. Gandolfini is quick to bond with these hitgirls—over cookies and milk even—because his own daughter has disowned him, and try as he might she won't let him back into her life. One should think his kid would reconsider, if only because her dad is the sole human in Violet & Daisy who doesn't speak like he came out of a comic book.
Dialogue isn't the only thing affected in this oddball black comedy. It does a lot of formally correct things—you feel the certainly of the script immediately. When Violet and Daisy are dressed as pizza-delivering, bubble-gum blowing nuns (an image Fletcher clearly loves) Vi tells Daisy an old joke about a doctor sleeping with his patients. Daisy doesn't get it because, to her, sleeping with anything is sweet. Vi is the old pro on the block—by contrast, Daisy isn't just young, she's pure. Since these kids kill for a living (and like their work) they both realize that living in their world requires a very constant relinquishing of their terribly precious innocence, it's an innocence that's deliberately at odds with the kind of cynical and even inhuman joking about death that Fletcher's pushing. He postures that killing is hip and with the directorial coldness required to sell the idea that soulless bodies are comically inert. When the girls do the hit in nun habits, they spend a while mowing down a guy with a constitution like RoboCop—the sheer duration of the gun fire is the joke. Meanwhile, the girls' bond is like a marriage. For Vi to protect Daisy is right and virtuous, but for each of them to protect themselves is a kind of betrayal, especially since their lives are so high risk. But in this world, where people talk funny and death is comedy, it makes some sense that the grim reapers ride a tricycle. It's not original—in fact it's incredibly derivative—but people who think it's genius might just fall in love.
Contact: CAA 424-288-2000
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Alexis Bledel, James Gandolfini, Danny Trejo
Director/Screenwriter: Geoffrey Fletcher
Producers: Geoffrey Fletcher, Bonnie Timmermann, John Penotti
Genre: Dark Comedy
Running time: 96 min.
Release date: TBD