Candid Cinema

TIFF ’21: ‘Violet’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Justine Bateman’s directorial feature debut has rich experimental elements and an internal dialogue that all women can relate to. Olivia Munn stars as Violet, a Los Angeles–based film executive, who has worked extremely hard to gain status in an industry still dominated by older white men. Nowhere is this more apparent than in her relationship to her boss (Dennis Boutsikaris), who exerts his power by regularly humiliating her in front of clients. Due to her developed anxiety working with her boss, her submissive nature, often results in a snappy moment, expressing her true feelings.

The choices made in Violet are very unique and is a visual exploration of anxiety and self-doubt. As women, we need to prove ourselves in all industries, but for some reason the film industry proves to be twice as degrading at times. Whether you are in front of the camera, behind it, or in a production studio, women are still not taken seriously. Women are seen as too emotional, sometimes aggressive, or overly critical, which then applies to the meter of the spectrum; too timid, or too bitchy. Bateman shows the internal bashing of a woman’s conscious through colours and intertextual dialogue on-screen.

What really worked was the editing. There are conversations that Violet has with people who have made her as closed of as she is. Whether it was on the phone, or in-person, Bateman made the choice to show that past trauma, by jumping back-and-forth. The quick cuts allowed the audience to understand that these were crucial moments for her that made her feel incredibly small with the relationships she kept. Even though it was choppy, it still worked because Bateman would close off those moments with a polished fade to red, as Violet chose to not silence that angry side of her.

Violet is an experimental film that highlights a woman’s anxiety in her social and work life. The voice of Justin Theroux worked perfectly as her dark side of her conscience speaking out. Everything Bateman did to visually show her internal struggle was unique and it’s a really enjoyable watch because of it. Olivia Munn also gives a very strong performance and it was heartbreaking to watch some moments because of the trauma Violet faced. Addressing mental health in this way shows how important this medium is and how directors can explore these matters visually.

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