Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Let's Review Something: Violet & Daisy

So, for some reason this movie was held up in production hell for two years.  It was originally shot and released (partially) in 2011 and yet it never saw an official US release until early 2013.  Conceptually and stylistically, I can see why this wouldn’t necessarily pull in big box-office numbers, and I’m sure that the passing of James Gandolfini bolstered interest in its release this year (not like they planned for that to happen, but they did release this a month after his death), but I’m really surprised that it took THIS long for it to drop.

It isn’t anything special, but it has its merits and should be seen.

I’m a little concerned that society is becoming too obsessed with pre-teens and teens killing people.  With ‘The Hunger Games’ being SO successful and all these young adult series featuring young kids taking the reins and killing and killing and doing more killing and films like ‘Hanna’ and ‘Violet & Daisy’ (both starring Saoirse Ronan) turning teens into assassins I’m beginning to worry about the collective interests of the world. 

Why is this such a ‘thing’?

I’m not saying that the idea isn’t something to be toyed with on occasion, and ‘Hanna’ in particular was a VERY strong film, but I fail to see why it’s become so popular.  Let’s space it out a bit.

‘Violet & Daisy’ tells the story of two teenage girls who happen to be partners in crime, killing off whoever their mysterious boss requires them too.  They are in want of a vacation, and then they see a special dress they just HAVE TO HAVE and so they accept one last job, which they assume is going to be a piece of cake.  Then they meet their hit; an older man who is not only kind hearted but who has a troubled backstory and wants desperately to die.  This confuses the two girls and even makes them sympathize and connect to him.  When they save him from a rival gang who also want him dead, their bond becomes closer and soon they start discovering things about themselves they didn’t know beforehand, or didn’t want to confront (or divulge).
Why did his best year have to be his last?
The strengths in this film lie in the acting.  Not all of it, but some of it.  Both Saoirse Ronan and James Gandolfini are strong here and help anchor the film in places where it could have fallen short.  Gandolfini had a remarkable year, which is depressing for one very big reason.  His range was certainly exemplified in the way he handled such internalized emotion, and anyone who thinks he was only ‘Tony Soprano’ needs to reevaluate that stance by watching his 2013 releases (and really, most of his film work, which is very strong).  Ronan also shows a lot of character shading here, especially in her quiet scenes with Gandolfini.  Bledel is a sore spot, mostly because she just pales in comparison to her co-stars.  She also has the biggest arc (emotionally) and she can’t handle it.  While Ronan is perfect as the naïve partner, I really think she should have swapped roles to make this more convincing.  Ronan is just the superior actress, and Violet is the most complex character (while Daisy is more of the star).

Conceptually, I also feel like this one didn’t fully cook.  There are some themes here that needed more kneeding to feel complete.  The sad thing is that it is evident that ‘Violet & Daisy’ wants to say something more than ‘watch these girls kill people’ but when it all ends it feels like that is all it really said.  I think making the character of Michael (Gandolfini) the most interesting and fleshed out was a detriment, even if it offered Gandolfini a chance to really pull it out.  It took the focus away from the protagonist and made their particular story less important and ultimately less memorable.

Unlike ‘Hanna’, where all the shading and development was focused on Hanna herself (with plenty of supporting development that was never distracting), ‘Violet & Daisy’ doesn’t really develop Violet or Daisy as fully as it should.  Yes, there are hints (Daisey’s blanks; Violet’s rape) but they are merely mentioned and passed over for yet another plot point.

So, in closing, the film is engaging in parts but ultimately incomplete.

I give this a C.  It has elements that work, but overall it really needed depth.  I'll say this, if I had seen this a few months ago I would have predicted that Gandolfini would be winning more critics awards (noting BOTH this and his 'Enough Said' performance) but that was before Leto became the only actor to win anything in his category.  Gandolfini is definitely the MVP here (arguably Lead here as well) and I highly recommend you see it for his performance if for nothing else.


  1. I'm glad you finally got to see this. I enjoyed it, but you bring up a good point about the 'teenagers killing people' trend. I just saw a preview for some horrible 'Barely Lethal' movie where Hailee Steinfeld is an assassin, and I totally see where you're coming from.

    1. Yeah, it's alarming to say the least.

  2. I liked it more than you did, but I might've rated it a B due to the performances. Gandolfini just misses my supporting lineup for this instead of Enough Said. As good as he was in ES, I was blown away with his performance here.

    1. I consider her Lead in both films (I mean, really) and I prefer his Enough Said performance overall, but the range he displayed in both films is just incredible. It really makes the weight of his loss all the more depressing.