Saturday, September 17, 2011

TIFF 2011: Director Geoffrey Fletcher, Alexis Biedel, James Gandolfini & Saoirse Ronan at the "Violet & Daisy" Premiere

Oscar-winning screenplay writer Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious), now turned director, has put a sweet spin on the hitman genre with Violet & Daisy - a story about 2 young assassins who accept what appears to be a regular hit-job, but turns out to be the defining moment of their lives.

The film begins with Violet (Alexis Biedel) and Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) dressed as nuns blasting several thugs away in a New York apartment building.  The bloodbath is similar to kill scenes in a Tarantino or Scorsese crime drama, but the big difference is that these killers have heart.  Before leaving the scene of the crime, Violet adopts the thugs' orphaned puppy.

Later, the women reluctantly accept a suspicious job that promises to be easy.  They break into the target's apartment and await his arrival -- only to fall asleep on his couch with guns in hand.  When they awake, they are surprised to discover that their target (James Gandolfini) has covered them with a blanket and made them fresh oatmeal cookies.  Even more surprising, the man is willing to accept his horrible fate.  Confused by his strange response, the women try to make sense of their situation, but soon become targets themselves when a rival gang arrives with the same deadly agenda.

[Saoirse Ronan is Daisy]

There's a lot to like about Violet & Daisy.  The hitman genre has been done to death, but Fletcher's take is cute and funny: despite being professional killers, the protagonists are still very much young girls (they play paddy cake and hopscotch, and go gaga for couture dresses).  Although this twist may be too saccharine for die-hard gangster film lovers, it effectively adds to the heroines' sociopathic nature.  After butchering several guys, the girls do the "internal blood dance", which has them jump up and down on their victims' stomachs until blood spouts out their mouths like a fountain.   

[Alexis Biedel is Violet]

It's interesting that Fletcher has followed up the success of Precious with this dark comedy, but considering the bleakness of that picture, Violet & Daisy is likely as welcome a departure for him as it is for audiences.

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