Review by Amanda Gilmore
When Violet (Olivia Munn) was a child, she was free and happy. As she grew up, a negative “guiding voice” (Justin Theroux) began changing the way she lived. She now works at a film production company where she deals with a sexist, undermining boss. And spends her days biting her tongue trying to please others, even when that means causing herself pain. But things begin to change when Violet decides to do the opposite of what her “guiding voice” says.
Violet’s negative voice feels like it’s the manifestation of overpowering depression and crippling anxiety. It diminishes her self-esteem so that she becomes a doormat for others, changing to be what they want. And it tells her to submit, convincing her that’s the only way to get through life. Theroux provides powerful voiceover work that creates a convincing guiding voice.
Actress-Writer-Director Justine Bateman – yes, the same one from Family Ties – further visualizes Violet’s inner turmoil through transitions. Fade-outs are traditionally used by fading to black. However, Bateman fades to red. These fades happen when Violet finds herself overwhelmed by the negative voice and those around her. The immense pressure builds and transitions into anger that she buries within her, which is symbolized through the red.
Although we are hearing the negative voice, we rarely hear Violet’s thoughts. Bateman incorporates Violet’s thoughts through quotes across the frame. Majority of the time these writings aide in exposing things we wouldn’t otherwise know. However, there are moments when these writings feel overused.
This is primarily caused because of Munn’s strong performance. Her talent in this role makes the added visual quotes seem redundant. We don’t need to read what is happening behind Violet’s eyes, because Munn shows us. She shines brightest in one particular scene when Violet confronts her sexist boss.
Violet screens at SXSW Thursday, March 18, 2021 at 5 PM ET.