(On Cable TV, November 2015) Alas, Violet & Daisy has more potential than actual success. Taking place in a world with a clearly-defined criminal ecosystem that includes rates assassins, this is a film about two bubble-gum-popping teenagers working as killers, making money to splurge on the latest celebrity fashion. Their lives, however, are put in question when they take on a contract on a man (James Gandolfini, sympathetic enough in one of his last roles) who seems curiously amenable to their deadly plans, going as far as making things as easy and comfortable for them as possible. Writer/director/producer Geoffrey S. Fletcher clearly has quirkiness in mind in executing his film, but the result seems curiously tame and unbelievable at the same time, not taking enough chances to be interesting. (Comparisons with John Wick, which also indulged in a comic-book universe of codified contract killers, are instructive.) It speaks volumes that, mere weeks after seeing the film, I can’t remember much of the conclusion or even anything beyond the first thirty minutes: It doesn’t help that after a machine-gun opening, the film settles down in an apartment and that even the subsequent gunfights can’t do much to go beyond the talky theater piece that the film becomes. Reflecting the hit-and-miss script, Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel don’t get to show much depth as the talkative teenagers seemingly wrestling with questions of morality and life goals. While Violet & Daisy is amiable enough to be worth an unassuming look, there’s a tangible feeling that something is missing from the result –more exploitation, more depth, more craziness or more realism, but definitely something to take it out of its untenable middle-ground.
(In theatres, August 2009): How appropriate that a film about a confused young woman should be so conflicted about its own intentions. A limp mix of drama, comedy and romance, Post Grad struggles with an unremarkable protagonist, an episodic structure, dull scenes and intermittent comic wit. Alexis Bledel never engages as an apparently-perfect protagonist who still can’t get a job: her lacks of distinctive skills make for a bland lead that never earns any sympathy. (It gets worse once we realize that this supposedly-smart woman with editorial ambitions never once considers moving to where the action is –New York- even when Columbia beckons another character.) The script isn’t much better, mind you: Oscillating between wild comedy and family drama, Post Grad never seems to know what to do next: the dramatic threads are all underdeveloped, events happen without character intervention, and the whole thing soon feels like a slog. The highlights are few and minor: Michael Keaton is a refreshing presence as a doofus dad, and the film makes a surprising amount of comic mileage out of a flattened cat. One can only imagine the screenwriting process that led to such a scattered result: Was it a wild comedy toned down to a more general tone, or a hum-drum drama punched up with a few zanier moments? We may never know, especially since it’s hard to imagine someone re-watching Post Grad to hear a director’s commentary.