Violet & DaisyReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 06/06/13 15:52:33
I realize that "Pulp Fiction" is clearly the most influential American film of the last 20 years or so but aren't we clearly long past the sell-by date for the idea making a film clearly trying to approximate its unique mixture of quirky casting, oddball humor, pop-culture commentary, off-beat casting, casual amorality and grisly violence? Granted, a quick glimpse of IMDB reveals that "Violet & Daisy" actually made its debut at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival and has been sitting on a shelf since then. That answers that question but raises another about why anyone would suddenly decide that now was the perfect time to take a movie as dreadful as this one and suddenly inflict it upon the public instead of allowing it to collect dust, perhaps the only task for which it shows even trace levels of competence. I don't want to say that this movie is bad but in the long and ugly history of terrible Tarantino knockoffs, this one is bad enough to almost make "Mad Dog Time" seem like "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead" by comparison (Note to anyone ready to drop a line defending either of those two cinematic calamities--you are wrong and there is no power on Earth that will convince me otherwise, though Diane Lane and Gabrielle Anwar are allowed to give it a try in the name of fair play.)Alexis Bledel and Saorise Ronan star as Violet & Daisy, a pair of teenage girls whho work as hired killers for some unseen crime kingpin and it say quite a lot about the utter stupidity of the film that neither that neither that basic premise nor the fact that Alexis Bledel has long since passed the time where she could convincingly pass for a teenager are even close to being the dumbest and most implausible things about it. For example, take the opening scene of the film. . .please. . .in which it blatantly tries to emulate the "Pulp Fiction" scene in which John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson shot the shit about fast food in Europe and foot rubs before carrying out a hit with shocking ferocity. Here, we see our heroines walking towards their next job as the more worldly Violet tells a long and involved joke about a guilt-ridden doctor confessing that he has slept with some of his patients--the punchline being that he is a veterinarian. This is silly enough but it turns out that the more innocent and sweet-natured Daisy doesn't quite get the joke--she assumes that sleeping with the animals means just that and nothing more. Oh, I almost forgot, the two are dressed like nuns and are carrying pizza boxes so as to disguise their guns.
In many ways, this scene is a throwaway--it really has no bearing on the rest of the plot per se--but since it serves to introduce its two central characters and essentially introduces the tone that it will be following throughout, I would like to offer a couple of comments about it. For starters, if you were to find yourself working as a hired killer and needed to select an outfit for your latest job, my guess is that you would want to dress in as inconspicuous a manner as possible in order to blend in and attract as little notice from potential witnesses as possible. Therefore, can we all agree that there are few sights more potentially conspicuous than that of a couple of young women dressed as nuns and carrying pizza boxes? Sure, it sounds funny in theory but it plays so stupidly in practice that the film practically decimates its already shaky premise long before its title has appeared on the screen. As for the bit about Daisy misunderstanding the joke about the vet, I suppose it was meant to demonstrate that she possesses a certain degree of innocence despite her profession but all it does is make her look stupid at best and cognitively impaired at worst. I mean, even the mentally challenged guy on the TV version of "Fame" eventually figured out the difference between sleeping with someone and sleeping with someone , though I concede that it did take until the third commercial break for it to finally get through to him.
Anyway, after this opening hit--a gig that finds them killing something like 15 people and getting away without a scratch--Violet and Daisy, who appear to live together and have no other family or friends other than their chief business contact (Danny Trejo), decide that they have earned a long vacation and even turn down their boss when he offers them a high-paying, low-risk job that they could do in their sleep. However, when they discover that their idol--a pop starlet by the name of Barbie Sunday--has just put out a new fashion line and they need money so that they can each buy one of her dresses. They take the job, sneak into their target's apartment and, like most highly trained paid killers, they promptly fall asleep on the sofa and when they finally awake a few hours later, their target, Michael (James Gandolfini), is sitting there patiently waiting for them and even has a pan of fresh-baked cookies at the ready to offer. Not only is he not surprised to see them, he knows exactly why they are there and in fact asks them to get it over with, a move that thoroughly confuses Violet & Daisy and turns a routine kill into anything but ordinary.
If the idea of a couple of hired killers arriving to take out their latest target, only to find him waiting for them to come and finish him off with nary a struggle sounds somewhat familiar to you, then you have clearly either read Ernest Hemingway's famous short story "The Killers" or, more likely, seen one of the two famous films that it inspired--the 1946 version from Robert Siodmack that featured one of Burt Lancaster's first film appearances or the 1964 take by Don Siegel that featured Ronald Reagan's final on-screen appearance. If you haven't, I urge you to do so because I guarantee that you will have a much better time with any of those iterations than you will with this film. Here, our two dim-bulb anti-heroines grow curious about why Michael would want to end his life and even find themselves in the odd position of saving his life when another group of hitmen arrive to wipe him out for another misdeed done to another crime syndicate. Although they can't quite seem to get around to eradicating their intended target, they do wind up firing off another rounds to require a couple of outside trips for more ammunition that turn into bizarre adventures of their own. At the end, they finally escape their hideous predicament and make a solemn vow to never put themselves in such a stupid and shameful position again in their lives. Oh wait, actually thatwas me. "Violet & Daisy" is not so much a bad movie--although it is a very bad one indeed--as it is a completely bewildering one. Not only does it not "work," as they say, I have absolutely no idea as to how it could have possibly succeeded even under the best of circumstances. The film was written and directed by Geoffrey Fletcher, who unaccountably won an Oscar a couple of years before for writing the screenplay for the pathetically overrated "Precious," and his efforts here almost make that project seem plausible and restrained by comparison. Whether taken literally, metaphorically or as some form of satire, the story makes no sense whatsoever and the attempts to disguise its incoherence via its wild shifts in tone from deadpan humor to achingly sincere drama to wildly over-the-top violence (at one point, our heroines jump up and down on one of their victims so they can watch the blood spurt from the wounds) only serve to make the whole thing seem even more confusing and inexplicable than it already is. The great filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once famously posited that only two things needed to make a movie were a girl and a gun. If nothing else, "Violet & Daisy" sure goes a long way towards disproving that particular theory.
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