Violet & Daisy (**)

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violet_and_daisy_ver2I can definitely see what Oscar winning screenwriter turned filmmaker Geoffrey Fletcher was shooting for (no pun intended) with his directorial debut Violet & Daisy. He was aiming to take a well worn path like the hit man sub genre and give it a real different spin and take the road less traveled. Fletcher was right to want to do that, since it’s a type of movie that’s been done to death, but Fletcher is clearly not the right writer/director to tackle the project, to say the least. What might otherwise have been an amusingly offbeat action flick crossed with a coming of age tale rife with existential side notes somehow manages to feel derivative, unoriginal, and quite boring. A very fine cast including Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan in the leading roles, with James Gandolfini as a main supporter are utterly wasted in a film that almost appears to be a send up of Quentin Tarantino‘s early projects. There’s a good film that could have been made out of very similar material, but this particular recipe leads to a rotten main course. It never gets overtly bad, but it’s limp and you spend most of the 90 minute running time simply waiting for it to just come to an end.

For the title characters Violet (Bledel) and Daisy (Ronan), not only are they teenaged best friends, they’re highly trained assassins as well. They can literally go from complaining about their favorite singer Barbie Sunday (a cameo by Cody Horn) canceling a concert to executing a brutal hit in the span of minutes. Violet is the verbose and jaded one, while Daisy is the newcomer and still has a bit of innocence to her. They’re both quirks, but good at their job. When they opt to take a seemingly easy hit, they come upon a pitiful guy named Michael (Gandolfini) literally begging to be killed. This throws them off and sets into motion the true nature of this story, which is more concerned with three damaged souls growing as individuals while becoming kindred spirits. There’s also some rival hit men trying to kill Michael too, but that seems rather secondary to his life regrets and the girls’ more simple issues. At times it has the ability to suggest something original, but more often than not you’re just reminded of similar movies that managed to do most of this in a far better and more entertaining way.

Violet and Daisy-footageThis cast should have been able to elevate this humdrum material to at least some degree, but fairly consistently Fletcher manages to bring them down instead. Alexis Bledel is woefully ill equipped for the dialogue he has her spouting off, so she often seems silly instead of tough. Likewise, Saoirse Ronan comes off as learning disabled instead of some pixie like innocent far more than she should have. James Gandolfini comes the closest to emerging unscathed, but that’s mainly because he’s got the quietest role and just has to more or less play a version of himself. Bledel and Ronan do have decent chemistry together, but the script shoots that in the foot consistently. Gandolfini is the best of the wasted supporting cast, which includes Danny Trejo, Tatiana Maslany, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and John Ventimiglia, but no one was able to impress me here at all.

I wasn’t a big fan of Geoffrey Fletcher’s script for Precious, but I was still expecting more from him here than I received. As a director, he’s very bland and never comes close to suggesting that he has a future behind the camera. As a writer, this is also a major step back, since it feels way too much like the numerous ripoffs in the late 90’s that tried to ride the popular wave of talkative criminals that Pulp Fiction brought into pop culture. It’s as if Fletcher assumes the material is just going to work and doesn’t bother trying to actually make it work. He has everyone be overly talkative and needlessly stupid, never bothering to attempt to advance the plot in any significant way. I’m all for quiet character pieces, but pointless existentialism from teenage killers and a guy with a death wish doesn’t inherently work. It needs to be developed and Fletcher never did that at all.

Like I said before, there could very well be a good movie somewhere within Violet & Daisy, but Geoffrey Fletcher was never going to get us there. Perhaps some different casting decisions might have helped, but I think his screenplay was a bad starting point and his own flawed direction ultimately sunk things. Perhaps next time Fletcher will either try and direct someone else’s writing or just stick to screenwriting, since this flick is evidence that he’s no writer/director just yet. He may become one down the line, but he has plenty of work to do before that day arrives…

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!