Messy and chaotic in all the right ways, Justine Bateman and Olivia Munn join forces to create an captivating look at how to free yourself from your inner monologue.
By Sean Blanford
Images courtesy of TIFF
I want to preface this by saying I should not be writing this review today. This is more or less how I felt about this film nearly six months ago when it first premiered at South by Southwest. In a way, I am glad I waited because getting a chance to Justine Bateman’s feature directorial debut Violet on the big screen added an extra layer to the film that you don’t get from watching a film on your TV or laptop, no matter how good your sound setup is. Sometimes it is hard to get out of your way when you want to make important life choices, decisions at your job, or, say, write a film review. For the titular Violet (Olivia Munn), it may be an extreme version of these fights you have with yourself, but it is relatable, which is at the crux of why Violet is such a great film.
Violet Calder is a film executive living in Los Angeles and is a star on the rise. She is wanted by other agencies to come work for them, knows how to get projects off the ground, and has built herself a network where she is genuinely good at what she does. However, she also allows those below her at her job to walk over her, isn’t confident about the things she is truly passionate about and allows fear to make most of the decisions for her. That fear is given life in the voice work of Justin Theroux as a disembodied antagonist, as well as the text we see on the screen throughout the film saying things initially like “I feel like I don’t know who I am anymore” and “why can’t I stop this voice in my head.” This is Violet’s true self wanting to emerge from the inner demons from her childhood and progress into her adult life. Throughout the course of the film, we see Violet grow and progress thanks to those around her, including an awkward run-in with an old flame and the will-they-or-won’t-they friendship with screenwriter Red (Luke Bracey).
The stars of this film are Munn’s performance as Violet and Bateman’s fearless way of putting it all on the screen. It is jarring right from the get-go with loud electronic music and flashing visuals of decomposing animals and car crash scenes inundating you from the opening credits, but it’s to set you up for what’s to come. When the screen starts to turn red, and the buzz sound like a migraine is about to come, that tension is palpable and something we have all felt before. It’s all to build toward what the film has ahead for us, never letting us know how Violet will overcome these feelings.
Violet is messy and chaotic in all the right ways. It asks us to want to see Violet overcome this, and without Munn’s genuine performance that runs her through the wringer of emotions, this would have been a much lesser film. It’s just as much about discovery for the audience as it is for those we see in the film, and in some ways, that level of catharsis is much needed.
Grade: 4.5/5 (A)