“Violet” is the narrative feature film directorial debut of “Family Ties” actress Justine Bateman. She also wrote the screenplay. The story centers around a mid-level, female Hollywood film executive in who’s yearning to push back against the naysayers in her life, including family members, colleagues and the destructive voice in her own head.
The title character is played by Olivia Munn, who tops her work in last year’s rom-com, “Love. Wedding. Repeat” with a new career best performance. Violet is multi-dimensional — often conflicted and always struggling with the negativity that surrounds her. Her boss is a toxic predator (clearly inspired by Harvey Weinstein). Her family, including Midwest car salesman brother, constantly denigrate her career choice.
And that voice in Violet’s head… it’s relentless, like a machine. It pounds destructive commands, urging Violet to remain a victim, avoid conflict and destroy the few good things she has in her life, including best friend/housemate Red (played by Luke Bracey). Justin Theroux’s deep, raspy voice is integral to the story but also one of the film’s least special elements. Bateman’s generous use of on-screen cursive text makes much more sense as the movie progresses.
It takes a while to determine if Violet is suffering from stress, insecurity or genuine mental illness. Once we get a feel for the character and her world it’s impossible not to root for her. Munn makes us care and is the reason why the movie works. I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t snag an Independent Spirit Awards Best Actress nomination. Bateman could also be on the ballot in the directorial and writing debut categories.
While the script is largely believable (especially the industry-related scenes), it’s also quite predictable. Bracey’s ‘friend who will likely become much more’ is as standard as they come. And I question why nearly every scene ends with a fade to black.
“Violet” isn’t the most polished film experience of 2021, but the central character study is unique and ultimately satisfying. And be sure to watch the *entire* movie. Bateman ends with one of the coolest closing credits sequences EVER.
LCJ GRADE: C+
Running Time: 92 min.