Many options open up in Hollywood for a talented person once they win an Oscar. Geoffrey Fletcher won the screenwriting Oscar for Precious. Violet & Daisy is his directorial debut, a whimsical tale of two teenage girls that also happen to be professional hitmen. It is an amalgam of other movies and cultural influences, from The Professional to Reservoir Dogs. Unfortunately, Violet & Daisy has none of the polish or memorable characters that made those films so successful. It is most notable for having been one of James Gandolfini’s last projects, as he plays a man marked for death by the two girls.
The premise is outlandish on its face. Two typical teenage girls are contract killers and living on their own, given targets by their boss (in a small cameo by Danny Trejo). Violet (Alexis Bledel) and Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) work together as a team on their jobs, taking down their contracted targets in a violent manner. One of this film’s main failings is the lack of backstory for how these two girls got into the business. The narrative gives hints of their background but most of the pertinent details are completely left blank.
The best thing about this story is that fiercely clings to the notion that Violet and Daisy are ordinary girls with ordinary interests, at least outside their chosen profession. Both are gravely disappointed when Pop idol Barbie Sunday has to cancel her concert and they speak in a fashion that could be overheard today at any mall in America. We learn that Violet is the more driven and serious member of the duo about their jobs. She is a pro’s pro when it comes to dealing with guns and ammo, wise beyond her years. Daisy has a sweeter, more carefree personality than her friend and partner.
Everything is going swimmingly in their lives as professional killers when they come across their next target, an unassuming man played by James Gandolfini. We never learn the man’s name but apparently he has taken money from different criminal enterprises and now has several different contracts out on his life. Through a series of tortured coincidences and implausible actions, Daisy begins to get friendly with the man right as another team of killers show up to kill him. The target begins to get more emotionally intimate with the girls, realizing his time is soon coming due. A series of revelations about the man are then used to reveal the inner emotional workings of the girls and the nature of their relationship.
Violet & Daisy is a strange cocktail of New York crime drama and angst-laden coming-of-age tale that never really works. What starts out as a flashy action movie with two teenage girls posing as nuns for a hit, eventually becomes the inner existential crisis of the two teenagers’ partnership. Gandolfini is fine in his role as a man that knows death is imminent, but it is a quiet role without much sizzle. Fletcher possibly realizes the emotional journey by itself is not enough for audiences, veering off into weird dreams and gimmicky storytelling devices in the latter acts that prove distracting.
Violet & Daisy has been shot on actual 35mm film, an increasing rarity it seems like these days. The surreal movie has some inconsistencies to its picture quality that can be chalked up to budget and some unusual choices in the color grading at the digital intermediate stage. For the most part it presents a sharp, high-contrast image that displays excellent fine detail. The biggest strike against it is an over-saturation of both yellow and orange, producing questionable flesh-tones.
The 97-minute main feature has been encoded in AVC at an average video bitrate of 24.98 Mbps. That is usually enough to produce a completely artifact-free encode, but some minor chroma noise is evident in the over-saturated colors within the grainy backgrounds. Deep black levels have a hint of black crush to them, wiping out the finest gradations of shadow detail.
Despite the minor problems, Violet & Daisy looks quite good most of the time. Its high degree of clarity and vivid color palette make for the proper context of this surreal fantasy.
Violet & Daisy features a well-curated selection of Pop music, used at times for both irony and emotional impact. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix is a fine, if limited, modern audio presentation. The lossless mix is mostly confined to the front soundstage, though a few audio cues leak into the surround channels. The score and some music does get spread over the entire surround field.
The soundtrack’s wide dynamic range will produce very loud gun shots if you keep the dialogue at normal listening levels. The opening act has a serious amount of gun violence, which comes through forcefully in clear sound.
Cinedigm has provided optional English SDH in a white font. They remain within the 2.35:1 aspect ratio at all times.
Cinedigm has included two very brief special features for Violet & Daisy. This combo pack also contains a DVD copy. In a rare find these days for media releases, an insert is included that features excerpts from several critics and a personal note from director Geoffrey Fletcher, penned after James Gandolfini’s death.
Theatrical Trailer (02:00 in HD)
Poster Slideshow – Four posters and teasers are presented in a slideshow format.
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