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Friday, November 8, 2013

DVD Review: Violet & Daisy

Violet & Daisy, about two young hit women whose new target causes them to rethink things, is one of the best films I’ve seen in quite a while. It features excellent performances, a damn good script, and impeccable direction.

Violet & Daisy opens with a high angle shot. Daisy (Saoirse Ronan, Hanna), a young woman, steps into frame, looking up, unhappy. And we see what it is upsetting her. Across a Barbie Sunday concert poster it says “Canceled.” She steps back, still looking, daring it to be true. Her friend Violet (Alexis Bledel) joins her, and Daisy asks her, “What are we going to do now?” Violet says, “I’ll think of something.”

The film then cuts to them dressed as nuns holding pizza boxes, while “Angel Of The Morning” plays in the background. The door to an apartment opens, and the two girls shoot the occupants. This sequence is so well shot. The camera remains in the hallway, while we hear gunfire, and then suddenly the girls emerge with a man who’d apparently been kidnaped. The scene does not end there, and is deliciously, almost beautifully, gritty. The scene ends with the two women looking at each other, and then the film’s title fills the screen. How’s that for an opener?

The two women are then taking a little vacation in their apartment, turning down a job and celebrating Daisy’s eighteenth birthday. Violet learns from a celebrity magazine that Barbie Sunday has a new clothing line. They can’t buy the dresses because, as Daisy says, “We blew the money on rent again.” So they of course are forced to take the job. Daisy says: “I can’t wait until we get the dresses. Things are going to change for us after that.”  What an endearingly demented view.

All they know about their target is that he stole a truck of cologne and some money from their boss, and that his apartment door will be open as the landlord is on their team. Russ (Danny Trejo), after giving them these details, asks them if they’ve heard about the new Barbie Sunday dresses, which is a cute, odd touch.

This film is full of wonderful touches like that, creating its own world, its own reality – and although this reality at first seems over-the-top, it soon becomes just as believable and real as our own reality.

The next day their target is not in his home when they arrive. There is a beautiful shot of the two of them backlit by his apartment window, as they listen to a message from a woman asking their target to leave her alone. They wait for the target, but fall asleep on his couch. 

The target (James Gandolfini) arrives, and gently puts a blanket over them. We see only his legs and his arms at this point, as he moves his chair so he’s opposite them and then reads the paper. When they wake, he’s asleep on his chair. And that’s the first shot of his face. There’s another nicely framed shot here – with the man in the center, and the girls’ guns on either side of him in the foreground. He tells them he’s been expecting them. They are unsettled by his demeanor, and the fact that he wants them to kill him (but they appreciate that he makes them cookies).

The movie is funny and sweet and at times heart-breaking. And it’s a total surprise. There are times when it seems like fantasy, and then other times when it hits you with a harsh reality. For example, there is another hit squad after the same target, and we learn that those guys had assaulted previously Violet. This is serious subject matter, and you might think that a mix of tones like that wouldn’t work. But this film is so expertly crafted that we are very quickly completely engrossed its reality, and are ready for any direction it may go.

It has a totally cool feel right from the start, so then it comes as something of a surprise to find the film has real substance. I certainly didn’t expect to find myself so emotionally invested in these characters (in all three of them), and in the outcomes. There is also some truly demented stuff in this film, such as the girls’ victory dance. But everything – the funny, the serious, the twisted, the sad – is excellent. This is a film I’m going to be revisiting often, and sharing with all my friends.

Violet & Daisy was written and directed by Geoffrey Fletcher, who won an Oscar for his screenplay of Precious. The DVD includes a gallery of stills of posters for the film, as well as the theatrical trailer.

Violet & Daisy is scheduled to be released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 19, 2013 through Cinedigm.

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