If Geoffrey Fletcher showed the movie world his Academy Award winning talent as a screenplay writer for Precious, he showed equal talent, if not greater, as a director in his debut film Violet and Daisy which premiered today at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) .
Two teenage nuns walking down the street with pizza boxes in their hands and one telling the other a very perverted joke. Weird? Absolutely. But there is more. They get inside an apartment but the camera doesn’t follow them inside. Instead it lingers in the hallway and then… series of gunshots. The nuns come out with a brutally beaten up man between them and are followed by wounded bodies spilling out of the apartment on to the hallway. On of them just refuses to die and keeps trying to aim a shot at the nuns while one of them continues to fire at him till she empties every last bullet in the magazine and finally finishes him off with the swing of the fire extinguisher on the mans head. Got your attention now?
Violet (Alexis Bledel, Gilmore Girls fame) and Daisy ( Saoirse Ronan, Lovely Bones ) are teenage assassins. Snuffing people to get enough money to buy the latest Barbie evening gown, which is every teenage girls dream. Their last gig which was supposed to be an ‘in and out’ job takes an unplanned turn when the target Michael (Sopranos star James Gandolfini) doesn’t turn out to be how they expected.
The water runs deeper than one can imagine under the fiery demeanor of Violet and almost innocent and uncorrupted mind of Daisy. For them the job was same as the job of a waitress in a restaurant or the customer service girl in your bank. They refer to their gigs in a very matter-of-fact way and seem unaffected by the gruesomeness of their jobs. Their victory dance after a job well done is jumping and dancing on the dead bodies and watching the blood gush out of their mouths and nose. Fletcher opens tiny windows through which we get a glimpses of Violet’s, Daisy’s and Michael’s life as we go along, which instead of conjuring the expected response from the audience, “Oh that’s why!”; just lets them hang there with a “Take it how you will” effect. So your mind is doing somersaults all along, desperately trying to paint the characters in either Black or White but you end up using every colour of the rainbow.
Is it possible to like or even fall in love with assassins? If the director is Fletcher, yes it is hundred percent possible. In-spite of the dark storyline filled with guns and bloodbath, cinematographer Vanja Cernjul’s camera work is soft, nurturing, caressing in every frame with exuberant colours which effectively soothes your otherwise rattled nerves.Violet opens a door and finds herself standing under a blazing sky in the light of the setting sun, studded with hundreds of static planes and then a snow covered terrain where Daisy tells her that she keeps missing her flight; are both sudden, abrupt yet captivating. The ambiguity is the strength of the movie.
Alexis was excellent as Violet; vibrant, strong, practical yet vulnerable and very much a teenager who has grown up too fast too soon. She is complemented by Ronan as Daisy; angelic, soft, almost fragile but headstrong and confident. Both the characters have multi-layers and complexities which were brought about by the pair effortlessly. James is a pro in bringing to life a author backed role and he does a stupendous job yet again. Guns, goons and the underworld is home turf for him and he takes full advantage of it.
A plate of freshly baked cookies, a letter from a dying father to his estranged daughter and a yo-yo are what make this movie unforgettable.