Movie Review: "Violet & Daisy"
Rating: R (violence, disturbing behavior, language)
Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: May 3, 2013
Directed by: Geoffrey Fletcher
Stars: 3 out of 5
Imagine a world where some of the best assassins were made to look like innocent little girls who wouldn't harm a fly. That is the premise of "Violet & Daisy," a somewhat terrifying look into the life and unlawful work of two teenagers, Violet (Saoirse Ronan) and Daisy (Alexis Bledel), who take girly glee in murdering people for money.
At the start of the film, the girls are actually taking a much-needed vacation to enjoy some of the fruits of their murderous label. Their boss Russ (Danny Trejo) sweet talks them into coming back to work by promising them a huge paycheck. When they express hesitation, he explains how many dresses they can buy from the fashion line of their favorite pop star, Barbie Sunday (Cody Horn), with the money they make, which gets them to take the job. The mark this time is Michael (James Gandolfini), who is unlike any other man they have been ordered to kill in the past. At first glance, he seems like a very sweet and unassuming guy who has done nothing to deserve getting killed. This is in direct opposition to past targets, who were bad men who might have deserved what they got.
The girls make a plan to kill Michael as ordered, but they soon find themselves liking the guy. He bakes them cookies and tells his sad tale of woe, which includes the death of his beloved daughter. For the first time since they began killing for money, Daisy and Violet begin to feel true sympathy, and the emotional wall they have built up in order to be so good at their jobs begins to crumble. This is very dangerous, because Russ and his boss Iris (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) are none too happy about the girls' hesitation. When another set of killers is dispatched to come after Michael, the girls must decide if they want to off him themselves or save him from the other assassins.
Having teenage girls as assassins is nothing new in the movies, with several actresses, including Saoirse herself (in "Hannah") taking on these violent and youthful roles. One of the most memorable is Gogo Yubari from Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill, Volume I." The difference between the girls at the heart of "Violet & Daisy" and the others is that these two characters don't just look sweet and innocent; they act like little girls as well. Gogo may have presented herself as an unassuming teenager, but she would quickly pull out her chain whip to show how dangerous she was. Violet and Daisy do no such thing, wearing clothes that look like they belong on a doll and talking in babyish voices. This makes them more dangerous than Gogo and her counterparts could ever be.
Both Saoirse and Bledel do an admirable job as the leads, but perhaps the best performances come from Gandolfini and Trejo. Gandolfini is probably best known as the patriarch of "The Sopranos," a mobster who committed many more murders than Violet and Daisy ever could. He usually plays the bad guy, or at least a questionable guy who might be bad. Here, he puts on a great display as Michael, who appears to be one of the good guys. He brings out emotions the girls never thought they had, which is not an easy thing for such cold, calculating assassins. Trejo looks gruff and mean, and has made a fortune playing up to those stereotypes. Here, he still looks gruff and mean, but he plays pat-a-cake with the girls. The sight of such a macho man playing childish clapping games with two teenagers who are arguably too old for such antics is hilarious. Somehow, Trejo makes it work, turning in one of the best performances over his considerable career.
Dark comedies are sometimes a hard sell, because they can easily step over the line and go from comedy to horror. In "Violet & Daisy," screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher manages to avoid horror film territory, keeping the film light and funny despite its dark premise. He also directed the film, marking his directorial debut after previously being the screenwriter for "Precious," for which he won an Academy Award. Though both films have very dark overtones, "Violet & Daisy" is a fairly big departure from "Precious." It is an unexpected next move for Fletcher, who seems like he is trying to show movie executives that he can do a wide range of movie genres. He succeeds in showing his adaptability, because "Violet & Daisy" is equal parts unapologetically funny and slightly disturbing.