Cartoon impulses give way to loneliness in Violet & Daisy.
During the first several scenes of Violet & Daisy, I wondered whether the movie was enroute to becoming another flippant display of hip, ironically presented violence. It's an easy conclusion to reach because Violet & Daisy focuses on two young women (Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel) who earn their living as assassins. Violent (Bledel) and Daisy (Ronan) conduct their opening hit disguised as pizza delivering nuns, a ploy that's a little too obvious in its attempt to simultaneously amuse and outrage. Are characters such as Violet and Daisy -- slavish devotees of their favorite pop singer, Barbie Sunday -- really plausible? Maybe not, but once movie settles down, it definitely improves. Best friends and roommates, Violet and Daisy are asked to carry out a hit on a guy who lives alone in a modest, perhaps even depressing, apartment. Here's the twist: The man (James Gandolfini) actually wants to die. He treats the women as guests, at one point even baking them cookies. At heart, Violet & Daisy looks a lot like a play that has been filmed in a single location, the shabby apartment occupied by Gandolfini's Michael, a character steeped in sadness and regret. As the situation evolves, we learn more about the relationship between Violet and Daisy, and they become less cartoonish. We also discover what's motivating Gandolfini's character. Director Geoffrey Fletcher, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for Precious and who also wrote the screenplay for Violet & Daisy, has picked a modest project for his directorial debut. He allows each actor plenty of space with Ronan and Gandolfini (no traces of Tony Soprano here) doing exceptional work. Violet & Daisy can feel more like a rough draft than a fully developed movie, but Fletcher has his finger on the lonely pulse of characters who've lost their moorings, and Violet & Daisy has more to offer than you might expect.