Thursday, May 15, 2014

Violet & Daisy (2011): The Art of Stealing

Violet & Daisy (2011)
dir:  Geoffrey Fletcher

Violet & Daisy can be summed up in one sentence. Violet and Daisy is what happens when a gay black man makes a female-driven version of a Quentin Tarantino film on a low budget. And, it's not terrible.

Geoffrey Fletcher is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" By Sapphire, and is also the writer and director of Violet and Daisy, a throwback movie to the post-Pulp Fiction '90s and the pulp noir atmosphere that Pulp Fiction threw itself back to. He, apparently, decided that the time was right to attempt a reconstruction of one of the most iconic films on even less of a budget.

Violet and Daisy are a pair of young female contract killers who are contracted to kill Michael (James Gandolfini), who stole a truck from their boss. And, when they get there, Michael wants to be killed and that turns the whole movie on its head.

This is no ordinary post-Tarantino film, however. Fletcher is knowingly recalling Tarantino's Pulp Fiction steps, as he crafted Violet & Daisy by cutting Pulp Fiction to shreds and reconstructing it in some sort of nouveau pastiche. For what effort, I'm not sure as Violet & Daisy seems to be wanting to talk to Pulp Fiction but without knowing what it wants to say.

Fletcher opens his movie with Violet and Daisy dressed in nun costumes telling a bestiality joke while walking to a door. Then, they knock on the door, shoot up the place, then finish their conversation about the joke as they change clothes and walk past the cops. Its a scene that echoes the second scene of Pulp Fiction where Vincent and Jules have conversations about foot massages, Vincent Marsallis's wife, and McDonald's menus in foreign countries. But, what is unclear is why Fletcher lifts such an iconic scene wholesale, other than to suggest that this is the way he would prefer Pulp Fiction to be played out.

Perhaps that is what Fletcher is trying to accomplish with Violet & Daisy. Maybe he really doesn't like the emptiness of Pulp Fiction and is constantly critiquing it by being emptier than it, and also setting scenes right.

Another technique that Fletcher lifts from Tarantino (and also Clerks) are chapter divides. He numbered sections of the film 1-10, giving each section its own cute title, like Violet's Odyssey or Death's Door. The numbers are straightforward 1-10, like chapters in a novel. But, why Fletcher steals this from the same director is unclear.

Fletcher plays with time and information, like Reservoir Dogs constantly recalling things from the past, or even giving more details to scenes that he purposefully cut short not 10 minutes earlier. But, Fletcher's cutting around of scenes are without purpose other than to emphasize how purposeless this technique is to him. One such example is when they run out of bullets because Michael had moved from his chair when they emptied their guns into where they thought he would be. Violet goes to get bullets from the hardware store, but then the store is held up and the clerk shot dead...end scene. Later, we find out that Violet confused the robbers until the cops got there and it all ended in a bloodbath. Why? We don't care. It's just another part of the story.

Fletcher even steals Tarantino's obsessions with his fictional celebrity creations (K-Billy, Jungle Julie) by creating Barbie Sunday, some sort of pop singer that also has a clothing line for Violet and Daisy to obsess over. The creation of Barbie Sunday, as well as the shallowness of the name do nothing but emphasize how empty Fletcher thinks Tarantino's creations are.

By making Tarantino's testosterone-laden hitmen into young teenage girls, Fletcher is also making a comment on not only the frivolousness of Tarantino's characters, but also their masculinity. Fletcher allows Violet and Daisy to remain young girls throughout, and shows them enjoying cookies (made by Michael), playing patty cake, and desiring dresses and fixing elements of the past. In a more surreal moment, they also do things like jump on dead bodies in order to make the blood come out.

So, is Violet & Daisy merely Fletcher doing a really good read on Quentin Tarantino? Or, is he merely stealing whole heartedly? It's really unclear. At times, Violet & Daisy seems like a critique like the above, and at other times, it delves into surreal Precious fantasy moments, and at others, it seems like a genuine movie. The rapidly shifting tonality of Violet & Daisy either points to Fletcher not knowing his own material, or possible not thinking past the film as more than just a critique.

The problem with Violet & Daisy, for me at least, is that I'm not sure what Violet & Daisy without prior knowledge of Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction is a film that is in the American consciousness in a way most movies aren't. And, I can't wrap my head around Violet & Daisy without also including Pulp Fiction in the scenario. Would it stand up on its own? Probably not. It's shallow and silly full of digressive scenes that lead nowhere and have nothing to do with the rest of the movie. One of the best things about Pulp Fiction was that everything tied into everything else. All the digressions led to something important. Violet & Daisy just has the digressions be digressive.

Regardless (or because) of its rip off nature, Violet & Daisy can be a strangely entertaining movie attempting to make a Pulp Fiction for females. I can't say if you're sick of formula movies, try this one because it's like something you've seen before, but it is different than what normally is sold. It's only worth a watch if you really like the post-Pulp Fiction knockoff genre.

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