J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Violet and Daisy: Killer Style

These two could probably use a serious talking to from Dr. Drew.  Despite their very adult job killing people, Violet and her latest teenaged protégé seem stuck in a permanent state of arrested development.  However, their latest assignment might lead to a bit of growing-up in Geoffrey Fletcher’s Violet & Daisy (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

When not whacking gangsters, Daisy and her mentor try to live a Spice World lifestyle.  Although slightly burned out, they accept another assignment from the hardboiled Russ, because their favorite pop idol has just released a new line of dresses. It will be a strange gig.  For one reason, their sad sack target seems relieved when they arrive locked-and-loaded.

Suspicious of Michael’s resignation, the girls do not immediately kill him.  Of course, the more they get to know him, the harder it will be to get the job done, especially for Daisy.  A rival hit squad and the boss’s sniper-minder further complicate matters.  Loyalties will fray and bullets will fly, as V&D coyly subverts gangster genre expectations.

Fletcher was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay adaptation of Precious, etc, etc, but do not hold that against V&D.  This film builds up quite a body count, but it is also rather clever and has some real heart.  Somehow, he maintains a fable-like vibe, despite the gritty backdrop and not infrequent on-screen violence.  Intriguingly, it can be seen as another dark modern fairy tale starring Saoirse Ronan as the little lost princess, somewhat paralleling Neil Jordan’s accomplished Byzantium and the highly problematic Hanna.

Much like Fletcher, Ronan deftly walks a fine line, portraying Daisy’s wide-eyed innocence, without becoming cloying or saccharine.  She also develops some nice chemistry with her co-stars, Alexis Bledel and James Gandolfini.  The latter has some particularly fine moments as the world weary but still protective Michael, whereas the former comes across a bit affected at times, looking far less at ease with Fletcher’s genre defying tone.  For added seasoning, first rate character actors Danny Trejo and Marianne Jean-Baptiste show up in brief but colorful supporting parts.

V&D is a small film, but for cult cinema fans, it is a pleasant palate cleanser.  Frankly, it sounds like a terrible concept in every way, but Fletcher largely pulls it off.  Simultaneously violent, wistful, and amusing, Violet and Daisy is recommended for fans of Ronan, Gandolfini, and hitman comedies when it opens this Friday (6/7) in New York at the AMC Empire.

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