As occasionally happens with me and fandoms, I was late to the Veronica Mars party. I didn’t watch it when it aired and it mostly just slipped off of my radar. I knew that it had a huge, dedicated fanbase that was devastated to see the show cancelled after three seasons. That fanbase was eager to do everything it could to see their favorite blonde PI back on screen. They got their chance when the creators and cast got together and started their now-famous record-breaking Kickstarter campaign. I was one of the many backers and sat down the other day to finally watch the film to see what my money purchased. Here’s my review.
Our story begins with our titular hero giving the audience some voiceover narration. Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) lays down some exposition before heading into a job interview at a prestigious New York City law firm. They are fascinated by her checkered background and seek to ruffle her feathers with some of the more salient details of her sordid past. She handles it with her customary aplomb and then heads from there to spend some time with her long-suffering boyfriend, Piz (Chris Lowell). His parents are coming to town in order to finally meet the girlfriend they can’t believe he landed. He’s understandably nervous about the situation. Veronica, however, is distracted.
On the TV in Piz’s office, she sees that her ex-boyfriend, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), has been accused of murdering his pop star ex-girlfriend, Bonnie DeVille (Andrea Estella). Like old times, Logan calls Veronica for help. Due to their tumultuous past, she can’t just leave him to her own devices and she flies back home to Neptune, CA to lend a hand. In Neptune, she discovers that whereas a lot of things have changed, more things have remained the same or have gotten worse. She’s soon enveloped in the mystery and drama surrounding Logan and the murder that has more to it than meets the eye.
For me, the movie felt like an extended episode of the TV show. Watching it was like pulling on a comfortable old t-shirt, fond and familiar. That said, I can see why it didn’t do as well at the box office. There’s the obvious fact that it didn’t necessarily have a conventional marketing strategy and that it was released digitally at the same time. It, like Serenity (another small to silver screen adaptation) before it, almost required watching the whole show prior to sitting down in the theater to see the movie. Sure, it would have been a fun mystery on its own, but the experience was certainly enriched by my having devoured the series a couple of times.
The modernized noir feel of the show did translate well to the big screen and I loved seeing all of the gang back together again. That said, it occasionally felt as if they were trying too hard to get everyone in there even if for a few minutes. That wasn’t the only thing that felt a little shoe-horned in.
On top of the murder mystery plot, the film also addressed the issues of police corruption and income inequality that had been a theme throughout the show. Those are great themes, but the balance between those themes and the main plot was a little off. I’d have liked to have seen that plot given better treatment or, if that wasn’t going to be the case, just dropped until they could give it the weight it deserved in a future project.
Despite my criticisms, I did quite like the movie. It may not have been the movie I hoped for, but it was worth the money I spent to back it. That’s praise enough with my limited income. It was fun and opened the door to future adventures in and around Neptune. That’s all a girl could ask for in the end, Marshmallows.
For such a feminist movie, and it is with its plucky Private Investigator at the forefront, the movie spends an uncomfortable amount of time reducing its women to sexist tropes. While Veronica is portrayed as a complex character, the women around her aren’t always given that luxury. There’s the obsessed fangirl, the prom queen who never left the high school mindset, and the party girls with issues. Whereas it also pokes and prods at sexism and the expectations heaped upon ladyfolk, the occasional jarring sexist joke slips out of the lips of characters like Veronica herself. I understand that these are, I suppose, meant to be ironic, but it just feels off and wrong somehow to have Veronica making jokes about whores. I thought we were beyond that now.
Also, damn it. Piz. Why did Veronica go back to being with Piz after the college drama? It’s not that I believe that Logan and Veronica are meant to be. I just think that Piz and Veronica were never a very good couple and seeing them together again in the movie just reminded me of how much I disliked their relationship and how he treated her. SPOILER ALERT: They don’t stay together. Thank goodness. END SPOILER
We need more movies with women at their hearts. We need to see more of those stories. I love having a complicated hero like Veronica, but I’d also like to see the creators not rely on the same old tropes. Take them and twist them. Don’t lean on them for support. We can do better.