Veronica Mars, review
Ten years ago, when Entertainment Weekly magazine was more important to me than food, I read about a little show on the UPN network about a high schooler named Veronica Mars, a modern day Nancy Drew, searching for the person who murdered her best friend, Lily Kane. I knew of Kristen Bell who had starred in the short lived "Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and also the stage version of "Reefer Madness, the Musical" and was incredibly intrigued. The show began to pop up on every Fall Television must see list. After watching the first episode, I was immediately hooked. The first 2 seasons were absolutely incredible. Each being a season long mystery intertwined with individual stand alone mysteries almost all with the underlying theme of the rich v/s the poor. The 09ers v/s the blue collar residents. I fought hard to help the show get a third season. I wrote letters, I encouraged others to do what they could. And we got a 3rd season. I remember being a bit disappointed with the decision to get rid of the season long mystery arc, and very concerned when Rob Thomas announced that he was not creating a series finale, instead opting for a season finale with absolutely no closure. When it was announced that the show would have no 4th season, I felt absolutely crushed. I couldn't even imagine what the future might hold for Veronica. As the years went on everyone seemed to want a "Veronica Mars" movie, the fate of which became a running joke on the likes of EW in columns like Ask Ausiello. "When pigs fly," Ausiello might have said. Yet here we are, 10 years after the pilot aired. And the impossible becomes possible.
You all know the story of the Kickstarter campaign, yes? Followed by the absurd "concern" over what fan funded material actually MEANS, basically questioning whether or not artists should be able to create via any means necessary, with funding from average lay people. And whether or not crowdfunding somehow gave the contributors power over the story. If not literally, at least in the back of the minds of the filmmakers. How this is more horrifying than letting the 1% decide the fate of all media absolutely baffles me...it almost borderlines on censorship.
But enough about all that. You are all here to find out my opinion of the film, yes? I felt the need to give it a second viewing today to make sure that my feelings were in tact. Screening the film with a select group at Warner Bros. Studios last week at the television department where the likes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Dawsons Creek," and of course "Veronica Mars" were all developed was a bit of a head trip to say the least. And seeing my beloved characters yet again on screen also sent me for a bit of a loop. I needed to make sure that I loved the film based on its own merits and not simply because I was going to love it almost no matter what Thomas and Co. did.
It is impossible for me to judge the film as anything but a super fan. As journalists, critics, bloggers, whatever hat we might wear at any given time, we bring a bit of ourselves to the table. I discovered early on that the more I tried to hide my life experience from my work as a writer, the less truthful my analysis of the work would become. The superfan is here. But that doesn't mean that I necessarily wanted Thomas to make a film that appealed only to the fans. I wanted him to make a piece of filmmaking that would align with the 3 seasons of the show and stay true to the characters.
So from this point there are going to be some minor spoilers. Nothing plot shattering, but alas, spoilers...and if you haven't seen the show, some of this might not make any sense...but then again, would you be reading this otherwise?
The film begins with Veronica interviewing at a prestigious global law firm right before she is to take the Bar Exam. It is made immediately clear that she has given up both Neptune and her life as a young private investigator. Even after a second viewing, I still find it a little hard to believe that Veronica would become a lawyer, but, hey, I did not create her, and I do not own her. This choice over the more obvious ones of making her an FBI agent, or even a psychologist (we do learn that she majored in psychology at Stanford) let me know early on that Thomas wasn't simply making my fanboy dreams come true. I was also thrilled that he addressed the whole kickstarter campaign head on in typical (if a bit eye roll-y) VMars fashion.
Briefly putting the central plot aside, there are so many wonderful gems along the way. Seeing Keith's (Veronica's Dad) excitement at finding Veronica back to her old phone answering ways at Mars Investigations. Veronica asking Wallace (her best friend) for help getting a permanent file on a former student...this time even funnier since Wallace works for the school, and of course the return of Madison. Oh, how I love Madison! Thank goodness for the 10 year reunion plot device. The timing actually seems right and the perfect way to bring characters back. At first we aren't sure which of the returning characters are going to feature into the grand mystery, but once it becomes clear, it is a welcome return, indeed. In terms of the new characters, the best of those definitely belongs to Gaby Hoffman as a superfan herself of the deceased Bonnie DeVille. (With this and her role on "Girls" Hoffman is the new go to crazy person!)
Unfortunately, the class divide (the haves and the have nots), which worked so well as a constant backdrop during the series , doesn't quite work here. It seems a bit more heavy handed than it felt on the small screen. And just when the mystery and the action starts to really fire on all cylinders we get a side plot involving the wonderful Weevil and a truly out of place return cameo that could have been left on the cutting room floor. (See...I can see faults! I'm not just a yes man when it comes to Miss Mars.) Although I will say...after yet another viewing of the film, it does open the door to the future, and does give us the closest peak into why Veronica might continue her PI ways. And also set the stage for...well...can't get too spoilery here.
What makes the film ultimately work is two fold. On the surface, the case seems a bit on the weaker side in comparison to Veronica's body of work as a teen sleuth, especially compared to the deep and complicated Lily Kane murder and bus crash whodunits. But then, just when I came to terms with its mediocrity, the mystery became a bit more complicated. And near the end, thinking I had it all figured out, of course there were more twists Thomas is a sneaky devil here, and the final reveals are almost as exciting and thrilling as watching Aaron Echolls chase Veronica at the end of season one. And the performances by both Kristen Bell and....well...someone else (don't want to give too much away) help solidify the film as a great chapter in the Veronica Mars canon. And the second factor? Well, that would, of course, involve the chemistry between Bell and Dohring (Logan).
Now...I clearly haven't mentioned where LoVe (That's Logan and Veronica for you newbies!) stands at the end of the film, and I am simply not going there. You have to remain unspoiled when it comes to V's love life. Let's just say....well...maybe I can write a follow up in a few months. Saying anything here would give it away. I'm not sure this is the end for Veronica...definitely doesn't feel like the end. But if for some reason it is, I can honestly say....well.... Nah...stay unspoiled.