Few films have left me as unsettled as Violet did. The intensity of the subject, painted with such vivid realism, turns intrusive thoughts and anxiety into a villain far more terrifying than any horror film antagonist. In her directorial debut, Justine Bateman reveals that she understands the hollow depths of self-doubt and the seeds of childhood trauma that take root and throttle your future potential.
Olivia Munn Gives a Career-Defining Performance in Violet as She Struggles With Invasive Thoughts
In Violet, Olivia Munn plays L.A. film executive Violet Calder who has, apparently, allowed “the committee” in her mind to control her actions for the past seven-plus years. In actuality, the committee is the singular condescending voice of “The Voice” voiced by Justin Theroux. As the film progresses, it is revealed that the cruel, twisted things that he whispers to her are echoes of her childhood. The little moments that no one expects to stick to their skin, ad infinitum.
Violet lives with her childhood friend Red (Luke Bracey), a screenwriter who has been blackballed by her casually cruel boss. Red serves as an anchor to her past, but also a place of safety that The Voice intentionally keeps her separated from.
Right from the start, audiences are pulled into Violet’s disturbed psyche, dragged over broken glass, and pulled apart along with her. Part of this visceral sensation comes from the violent, unsettling scenes forced upon audiences, but it is mostly to Munn’s credit that she has given life to an extremely relatable, sympathetic character. We struggle with her, we ache with her, and most importantly we want to see her break away from The Voice as much as she does. Violet is by far one of the strongest performances Munn has given to date.
Anyone who has battled against invasive thoughts whispering in their ear will recognize the moments where Violet reaches her boiling point. An electronic humming noise that grows louder and louder as her ears ring, the slow bleed of the screen as it turns red, mirror the edges drawing in around her. The conflicting thoughts are written in cursive across the screen, silently fighting back against the demeaning voice making her question her self-worth, her actions, and her own mind.
Violet‘s editing is truly inspired, overlying hand-scribbled cursive thoughts across the screen that crowd around Munn, intercutting scenes of shattered glass, a moldering fox corpse, a boxing match as The Voice brutalizes her. Other visual narratives are brought to life by movie-like clips that play on the walls around Violet as she clings to moments of childhood innocence.
The film ends rather abruptly, right at the emotional heights of Violet finally defeating The Voice. She severs her connections with her family, embraces her new relationship with Red, and appears to be on the right track with her career. While we can revel in the satisfaction that she has taken control over her life, it feels intentional that something is still left feeling like it needs to be said as the credits roll. Invasive thoughts, once defeated, will inevitably return. The story isn’t truly over, but the moment is.
In addition to Munn and Bracey, Violet has a long list of recognizable faces in its cast list including Dennis Boutsikaris, Erica Ash, Jim O'Heir, Jason Dohring, and Simon Quarterman, Rob Benedict among others.
Violet had its world premiere at South by Southwest in March 2021 and had its international premiere this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film was acquired by Relativity Media for U.S. distribution, but no release date has been set yet.