Film Reviews

VIOLET & DAISY

By • Jun 8th, 2013 •

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Violet & Daisy were the names of the Hilton twins, conjoined sisters who had a fruitful life in vaudeville (except that their earnings were taken from them by family and management) and appeared in the infamous 1932 film FREAKS by Tod Browning. I assumed there would be some connection between these two names and the ill-fated sisters beyond co-incidence, some connection that would give insight into the narrative I was about to see.

But if there was such a connection, I never did find it. The film is certainly a dark carnival ride of some sort, way out into the realm of absurdist black-comedy, but it’s not really a freak show.

Daisy and Violet are paid assassins, and they seem to be luckier in their trade than they are skilled. Each lives in a dream world, and the film seems to exist in an alternate universe where girls like these two can function and survive, and not be terribly affected by the blood and death of their line of work. Their latest assignment turns out to be an all-too-willing-to-be-dispensed-with sad sack named Michael (James Gandolfini) whose warm, accommodating attitude toward the hit-ladies has them baffled.

Screenwriter/director Geoffrey Fletcher could have gone in any direction he wanted after winning the Academy Award for PRECIOUS, his first major gig, and he chose to essay this delicate, poetic, offbeat character-oriented art film for which I give him great credit for daring, and points as well for succeeding in the endeavor. Here it is June, and I think this is one of the two best-directed films of the year so far. Additionally, much credit must be given to Cinematographer Vanja Cernjul (‘Nurse Jackie’, 30 Rock’), Production Designer Patrizia von Brandenstein (AMADEUS, BILLY BATHGATE) and Art Director Fredda Slavin (THE MAN IN THE MOON, “Sex and the City’).

All three leads are controlled and effective, and this is only the second role Gandolfini has had since THE SOPRANOS which hasn’t immediately thrown me out of the film I’m watching by his reminding me of Tony Soprano. (The other was WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.) His appearance in ZERO DARK THIRTY, for example, completely ruptured whatever aura that film was trying to build once he made his appearance. He displays a wonderful array of emotions here as he copes with the two wacky killers.

Of the two young women, ethereal Saoirse Ronan (Peter Jackson’s painful THE LOVELY BONES, Neil Jordan’s gorgeous BYZANTIUM, Ryan Gosling’s upcoming directorial debut, HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER) becomes the main protagonist, and while she is pretty much a cipher, we still believe in her shaded, thoughtful journey. The film’s offbeat style is so otherworldly, it is an achievement that all three of the leads understand where to go emotionally, and lead us there with clarity and dark amusement.

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