Violet is a unique look into a woman’s head, her day-to-day experiences and the struggle against a vicious internal monologue. Violet (Olivia Munn) is a film executive who’s seemingly got a pretty great life, but is unable to enjoy it due to her extremely harsh inner critic. Voiced by Justin Theroux, the voice in Violet’s head serves to undercut any moment of joy she may have. The voice fills her life with fear and doubt.
I’d recently been talking with a friend about the need for more films that are not by or for cisgender men. SXSW has provided the opportunity to watch plenty of such films, with films like Violation, See You Then, and shows like Made For Love (based on the book by Alissa Nutting) making their debut at SXSW. Violet is the directorial debut feature from actress Justine Bateman, and provides a look into the experience of women working behind the camera in Hollywood.
Violet fills a void in the film landscape that we normally only would find in literature, and much of the plot feels like something normally found in a book, not told on screen. The story is told through Violet’s perspective, and we’re privy to her innermost thoughts. Her thoughts are literally written across the screen throughout the film, and their poetic style is in stark contrast with the harsh voice she contends with constantly. Many of the moments in the film are unique to feminine experiences, but anyone who’s had to contend with an inner narrative that constantly tells them they are not enough will be able to relate to her character.
Olivia Munn excels in this lead role. While having her thoughts both spoken and written out to us could leave her with not much left to do, Munn is expressive, full of both doubt and determination, as she begins to fight back against the voice in her head. She never would have been able to start doing this if it weren’t for a conversation about “the committee” in her head with her friend Lila (Erica Ash) who tells her that she’s never listened to that voice, that she knows it’s lying to her. While I would have loved to see more of Lila in this film, the moments of female friendship shown in this film are candid and genuine.
What I appreciate most about Violet is the honest and glaring look it takes at the many micro-aggressions women and femmes experience constantly. She’s afraid of being called a bitch, so she’s passive at work when she doesn’t want to be; her accomplishments are glazed over by her boss; she worries about being charged too much for her car service. It’s these little things that are so normalized, and that we may not even pay attention to, that make Violet stand out.
Violet may be a bit shallow at times, but it’s also honest. The film never delves too deeply into many other real feminist issues, but it’s rare to see a film focus on this sort of lived day-to-day experience, and how it can wear on a person. In just 92 minutes, Violet will, hopefully, make many men recognize their misogynistic behavior, and will also hopefully provide a bit of inspiration to anyone who has dealt with imposter syndrome and relentless negative self-talk.
SXSW is March 16 – March 20. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.
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