Logic would seem to dictate that any movie debuting at the end of a film festival — when the town is quiet and the big stars and most of the press have all gone home — got that time slot for a reason. But at Cannes, Drive bucked that trend, premiering on the second to last night of the fest and still winning the Palme d’Or for Best Director. Here at Toronto, the end-of-festival surprise is Violet & Daisy, Precious screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher’s directorial debut: A bizarre, perversely funny comic-book-style look at two teenage girl assassins (Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan) whose world gets upended when the man they’re supposed to off is not who they expected (James Gandolfini). It’s still looking for distribution, but has a big-time agency, CAA, representing it.
That this future cult movie got made at all has a lot to do with Fletcher’s Oscar nomination for screenwriting in 2009, but he actually studied directing at NYU. He wrote Violet & Daisy in part to stave off nervous energy while waiting for Precious to get made, and in part because he wanted to explore the idea of “a movie where girls have guns but they remain girls,” he told Vulture at the after-party. And the girls do act like girls: They play patty cake between jobs and take on slaughter with the goal of buying a dress designed by their idol, Barbie Sunday. If it seems like the characters’ stylized way of talking is influenced by comic books, and the opening scene evokes Pulp Fiction, with Bledel’s Violet telling Ronan’s Daisy a great joke (which Daisy doesn’t get) just before opening fire in an apartment building, that’s because they do. “It’s funny,” said Fletcher. “Three years ago, I was standing in the cold on the sidewalk outside of a comic book store waiting to get [Quentin Tarantino’s] autograph, and then when Precious was doing the rounds, he was doing the rounds for Inglourious Basterds. So it wasn’t long after I got his autograph at that comic book store that we were making the [Academy Awards] rounds together.”
And though the movie was on the radar of no one in the media, its red carpet may have been the most frenzied of the week, with a veritable sea of 14-year-old girls clawing down anything in their paths to get a hand on Ronan and Bledel. Gandolfini had less of a scrum around him, but was incredibly attentive to the fans he had, actually pulling one of them onto the carpet to get her picture taken with him. At the after-party, he appeared to flee by car from media attention, sticking out his tongue to the paparazzi, only to come back for another hour or two, having changed into a black T-shirt and jeans.
Fletcher spent the after-party in a corner booth with his mother, just trying to absorb everything. “You only get one world premiere of your directorial debut,” he said. Ronan was back in her hotel room, sick with the flu, but Bledel stayed long enough to get another end-of-festival surprise: a birthday cake. She was turning 30 the next day and would spend it flying back to New York and then prepping her apartment to hand off to a three-month houseguest, a family member. “It’s a big open space and there are no doors, so I’m actually switching apartments because I want her to be comfortable,” she said. As for the cake, the venue presented it to her with sparklers, which scared her so much she cutely handed them off to one of the photographers. “It’s for you!” she told him. Then she skipped out of the way of the firework and flashbulbs, whispering, “Awkward!”