Play Violet for Me

Every night Violet and her sister Lyla (both played by Najarra Townsend) are at their usual bar, as are their admirers Foley (Matt Mercer) and Remy (John Paul Romeo). Violet is the sister who attracts all eyes; Lyla is less showy but just as attractive in her way. These facts are clear enough in the noir short Play Violet for Me, but beyond that you're left guessing based on the fascinating, tantalizing clues the movie slowly gives you.

It's also clear that Foley is very upset, and when he calls Lyla, saying that he needs to talk to her about Violet, she seems to realize what a state he's in and agrees to meet him at the bar. It's more smoking and drinking than talking to start, since this is a modern take on the classic noir film, but despite some initial reluctance Lyla takes pity on Foley and encourages him to tell his story.

But Foley knows only a small part of what's happened, and as the rest unfolds a piece at a time, the story rewrites itself more and more. The movie has the rare knack of using lots of brief scenes without feeling annoyingly choppy -- it gives a good sense of stories haltingly told. Saying things makes them feel more real, and Foley, at least, is certainly struggling to put everything into words.

Even when the movie ends and you think you've got it all worked out, there's lingering doubt. Anything that's shown through Foley's perspective is suspect, for one thing, since he's a highly unreliable narrator. Even when you want to be angry at him Mercer's performance manages to make the character sympathetic. Townsend does an excellent job making the sisters seem both different and all too much alike, and though she always seems to know exactly what's going on, she isn't inclined to let anyone else in on the secret.

It's a small gem of a film, and I'll give it four and a half out of five. It's noir through and through, atmospheric and moody, and like any good noir the difference between the good and the bad is awfully hard to see through the shadows. But as the movie says, you can't always play the fool. Sometimes someone else gets a turn.

Foley and Violet.  Or is it Lyla?


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