Following his 2010 Oscar win for his adaptation of “Precious” from Sapphire’s novel “Push,” Geoffrey Fletcher returns with his self-penned directorial debut, “Violet & Daisy,” which opens nationwide Friday. Discussing the difference between the experience of adapting versus working with original material, Fletcher explained, “With an adaptation, you’re creating and interpreting. Sometimes you’re editing elements, sometimes you’re expanding elements, (but) an original piece is something from the ground up.” He added, “The role of an artist is to translate his or her environment into something accessible to an audience that would hopefully inspire,” regardless of the task at hand.
In “Violet & Daisy,” Fletcher excels in this role, exploring the difficulty of coming of age and discovering one’s identity as a young adult with an added twist: The two young adults in question, Violet (Alexis Bledel) and Daisy (Saoirse Ronan), support themselves with jobs as assassins — or, as Fletcher refers to it, “hitmen.” Hitmen, it turns out, is — in the context of the film — a word as loaded as Violet’s and Daisy’s guns as the girls struggle to find their footing in the amoral and male-dominated world of the New York City underbelly.
Their youth, sex and wholesome appearances allow them to hide their cold-blooded personalities in plain view — particularly in the first hit shown in the film, when they arrive dressed as gun-toting young nuns. Later, when Violet is confronted by a police officer after witnessing an armed robbery, he assumes that she is an innocent bystander, and she retorts, “Officer, what makes you think I’m not in on it? What makes you think a girl can’t be in on it?”
“When you have girls and guns, it’s done a little differently,” Fletcher said. Unlike the default hypersexualization of young women that seems to be the norm in many contemporary films, Fletcher sexualizes Violet and Daisy as a critique of that culture. “It is notable that they are not sexualized,” he explained. He makes a point to repeatedly show them engaged in childlike actions, such as snapping bubble gum, licking lollipops and playing pattycake at rather odd times (such as when their boss informs them of the details of their next hit, or with the hit himself). This juxtaposition only intensifies the contrast between the girls’ youth and the gritty reality of the adult world in which they work, emphasizing the abnormality of their situation as they attempt to traverse both worlds and remain whole.
Despite being hired assassins and exuding the mentality that comes with such a job for a great part of the film, Violet and Daisy are surprisingly relatable characters. At times, the film seems to focus on how they behave like typical young women rather than their atypical career choice. Fletcher weaves into the film threads common to many young women’s lives, such as the ideas of celebrity worship and consumerism, most notably in the form of singing superstar (and owner of a clothing line) Barbie Sunday. The film follows the girls as they cut short their holiday in order to undertake a job, because they feel that they must purchase the new Barbie Sunday dresses. It’s a pretty exaggerated social commentary — two young women literally killing to keep up with the pressure they feel from a consumerist and celebrity-obsessed society — but it’s an apt one too. This consumerism also directly conflicts with their compassion, as it drives them to abandon their humanity to kill senselessly for money. Speaking about a message behind the film, Fletcher said, “Ultimately, I think that the path to our humanity has little to do with material objects and more to do with the genuine connection with other human beings.”
“One element of this story is the idea of having young women wielding weapons but remaining young women,” Fletcher explained. This seeming contradiction runs through every vein of the film; it’s a story about killers — at one point, Violet, having killed several men and piled their bodies in the bathtub, stands directly on one of their faces to take a shower — but it’s also about “friendship, love, redemption … celebrity worship and materialism.” And I think that all of us — even if you don’t know The Internal Bleeding Dance (hint: it involves jumping up and down on a victim’s internal organs in order to accelerate death) — can relate to that.
Contact Tyler Allen at [email protected].
A previous version of this article misquoted Geoffrey Fletcher as saying, “It is notable that they are sexualized.” In fact, Fletcher said, “It is notable that they are not sexualized.”