As the Toronto International Film Festival approaches, the film I'm still thinking about from last year's TIFF is Violet & Daisy, Geoffrey Fletcher's fascinating directorial debut – a resonant tapestry of pulp, humor, tragedy and humanism.
Some have rushed to compare Violet & Daisy with other films featuring comely gun-toting young women such as Kick-Ass, Sucker Punch and Hanna. However, the aforementioned films differ greatly from Fletcher's offering in that they are pro-violent pieces of commerce whereas Violet & Daisy condemns violence through irony and artistry. It is a throwback to the daring American films of the 70's and 90's in both spirit and style while sampling bits of 50's and 60's world cinema (and surrealism). The result is a classically-informed modern mosaic.
Alexis Bledel, Saoirse Ronan and James Gandolfini, the three well-chosen and committed leads, are all playing against type in what may be the most interesting roles of their careers. Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Danny Trejo are also exceptional. Rising star Cody Horn appears briefly as a pop starlet. I found it odd to see such a diverse collection of talents working in harmony not only with one another but within this alternate universe.
In addition to its array of unexpected (and suspenseful) moments, the film meditates on friendship, girl power, materialism and regret. Throughout, Fletcher imbues striking compositions with symbolism while gracefully moving through a myriad of tones and genres. The use of music is extraordinary. All of these elements working in concert with the film's considerable humor and technical command create a singular experience. I have no memory of a recent independent film that was this daring, multi-layered and assured.
The film has yet to be reviewed widely but it is no coincidence that some of the most thoughtful early writing on it came days, not hours, after the first Toronto screening. Fletcher and his remarkable collaborators may have also provided us with a litmus (if not Rorschach) test for cinephiles and critics alike. All in all, perhaps a film this bold ought to polarize in an age of shrink-wrap cinema.
I remember how I first felt watching Godard's Breathless and Alphaville. They were so different from anything I'd ever seen that it was at first unsettling. Once I found a doorway into these new worlds, however, escape was impossible. I feel the same way about Violet & Daisy.
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