From Oscar-winning screenwriter to first time, low-ish budget filmmaker, writer/director Geoffrey Fletcher’s career has been a rather interesting one up to this point. Making waves with his script for Lee Daniels’ Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire, he has gone from winning awards for his first credited screenplay, to having his first director credit sit on the shelf after making a debut in 2011 at the Toronto International Film Festival. However, thankfully it’s finally arrived in theaters, and not a moment too soon as this is a rather intriguing debut for a director who should be keenly watched going forward.
The film, entitled Violet And Daisy, has a rather simplistic set up. Starring the pair of Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel, the film follows the story of two teenage girls who also happen to moonlight as vicious assassins. When they get their new assignment, they meet a man who they are tapped to take out, only to be shocked by just who the man is and what his ideas about their arrival truly are. Ultimately slight in its ideology but not so in its emotional resonance, this trite black comedy/fable gets a trio of top notch performances but is ultimately more an interesting debut for a filmmaker than a truly superb piece of cinema.
From the very opening sequence, we are introduced to a few things. First, we meet our two leads, played by Ronan and Bledel. Both actresses here are solid, but the film truly thrives when they are sharing the screen together. There chemistry is somewhat tactile, and it does go through palpable changes as the film rolls on. When we are introduced to Michael, played perfectly by James Gandolfini, both youngsters are changed, and so is their relationship. The three performances here are inarguably the film’s strongest aspect.
One is also introduced to Fletcher’s direction. Simplistic and yet not afraid to go for a flight of fancy, the film never really gets off the ground aesthetically, instead opting for something far smaller. Primarily set within the confines of an apartment, the film is intimate in many ways but also rather slight and banal. It’s a fine bit of cinematic art, but it never gets above and beyond what one would expect from a debut filmmaker.
And finally, one is introduced to Fletcher behind the written word. Also the credited writer on this picture, it’s a distinct step forward for Fletcher, who instead of mining the same deeply dramatic material he had for the Daniels film, mines something entirely different. The first sequence introduces us to an almost surreal world, where, in the disguise of two nuns, the two young assassins have a conversation that instantly reminds the viewer of Vince and Jules’ conversations in Pulp Fiction. It’s admittedly conventional for this type of picture, at least in today’s landscape, but the film really changes its groove once the Gandolfini character is brought into the fold. It then shifts into something far more dramatic and far more melancholy, and ultimately come the final moments, something more rewarding.
Ultimately an intriguing curio for fans of this type of drama/thriller, the film is an intriguing debut for Fletcher. A director who is still attempting to find his voice both behind the page and behind the camera, this is a rather entrancing drama that speeds up as the viewer becomes more accustomed to this world. Toss in yet another brilliant turn from James Gandolfini and you have a solid directorial debut for this Oscar winner.