Violet and Daisy

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Hanna turns eighteen. Not what you’d expect from the writer of Precious.

sealvioletdaisyThis opens with two young women, Violet (Bledel) and Daisy (Ronan), peeved because their favourite singer, Barbie Sunday, has cancelled an upcoming concert, to which they’d been looking forward. Their conversation continues as they approach an apartment, curiously dressed as nuns, and delivering pizza. However, curiosity will likely turn to bewilderment: when the door is opened, the girls both pull out hand-guns, and a brutal gun-battle erupts. Welcome to the surreal, yet oddly heart-warming world of Violet and Daisy, two hit-women who are talked out of a planned holiday with the promise of a job, offering them enough money to buy their hearts’ desires: clothes from Barbie’s Sunday’s fashion line. Except, their target, Michael (Gandolfini), seems bizarrely happy to see them. I mean, as well as him helpfully telling them where to get additional bullets, after their misguided attempt to shoot him with their eyes closed, none of their other victims have ever baked them cookies before…

From there, things are gradually revealed about the participants and their various issues. Violet, the older assassinette (Bledel was almost 30 while shooting this), acts as a mentor to Daisy, who has just turned 18, and hasn’t yet come to terms with the violence required for the job. It’s an interesting contrast to Ronan’s younger, somewhat similar, yet far more callous character in Hanna. Meanwhile, lurking in the background is Iris (Jean-Baptiste), the number one killer, who is intent on ensuring that Violet + Daisy don’t feel too much sympathy for their intended victim, and back out of the job. Michael, meanwhile, is keen for them to get on with it, because a pair of more unpleasant fates are also coming towards him. It’s nicely nuanced, shifting from blackly-comedic – check out V+D’s “internal bleeding dance” – through to poignant and emotional, the latter enhanced by the death, earlier this year, of Gandolfini.

There seems something almost Tarantino-esque about this: more than the hefty body count and a generally whimsical style, definitely a surprising choice as the directorial debut of the man who gave us the bleak urban coming-of-age story which was Precious. Like QT, Fletcher, who wrote the story too, has an excellent ear for dialogue, though fortunately lacking the more egotistical aspects, and the movie also jumps back and forth in time; so, as in Pulp Fiction, some scenes don’t make sense immediately, until the blanks are filled in later. Throw in cult icon Danny Trejo in a cameo role, and Orphan Black herself, Tatiana Maslany, as Michael’s estranged teenage daughter, and you’ve got one of the most unexpectedly pleasant surprises of 2013 overall. It’s an engaging and effective action heroine film too, and one which doesn’t rely purely on adrenalin and cleavage. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course…

Dir: Geoffrey S. Fletcher
Star: Saoirse Ronan, Alexis Bledel, James Gandolfini, Marianne Jean-Baptiste

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