Veronica Mars: The Movie, The Woman
By now you’ve probably all read the reviews, most of which agree Veronica Mars functions more as an extended episode of TV than a movie . . . and then most of which, inexplicably, seem to think this is a bad thing. !!!
The film took quite a bit of time updating us on where the characters were in life and letting them snipe at or embrace each other, but it’s been seven years, and this is fanservice at its finest and least pandering. Let us have it. The mystery itself could have fit in a 42-minute episode (or, let’s be real, been stretched out to half a season), but it isn’t the point. The point is to bring us and Veronica back to Neptune.
C’mon. You’ve probably seen the movie at least once. So let’s dispense with the niceties and the general ‘it looks pretty, blah blah soundtrack, blah blah impossibly fantastic cameo slate,’ and get down to the nitty gritty. SPOILERS.
1) Noir themes
Halfway through, Keith utters possibly the most noir sentence the show ever wrote: “You did it kid, you made it out, don’t let this town take you down like it does everyone else.”
Of course she will, because that’s who she is, that’s what this show is. The sun-drenched streets of medium-sized-town California turning mean at night. Addiction. Hidden/shamed homosexuality. Dirty cops. Femme fatales. The inability to maintain a healthy relationship. Such noir.
Though Veronica does once or twice ask for a drink, and she mentions her alcoholic mother a couple times, it’s more a nod to the alcoholic PIs of yore. Drink is not Veronica’s poison. It’s the heady rush she gets from investigating crimes and misdemeanors. It’s the urge to pursue justice for the underdog; not just heading off fraudulent lawsuits at the pass, but avenging those wrongfully killed or abused or cheated on. It’s the need to bring to light the city’s seedy underbelly. It’s Logan.
Veronica falling for Logan, again, is — as I’ve mentioned — the most noir thing she could do. Veronica has never been able to shake Logan, and Jason Dohring sells why. He’s beautiful, tortured, charming, someone to save. Logan is her homme fatale, the guy who is trouble from the get-go and who trails destruction in his wake but whom she simply can’t resist. Noir has always been blunt about sex being useable for comfort, for a modicum of control over the other person or one’s own life, for basic primal urges, for a rebound, and this is all of it.
The way Luke’s storyline was handled was particularly fascinating, because it incorporates noir stigmatization of queer culture, but instead of making the movie the purveyor of that idea, it places all the responsibility for discrimination and double standards on society, particularly the ‘higher echelons’ of political and monetary society in which Luke moves and aspires to.
2) racial/income inequality, dirty cops
Though it’s a minor plot point, I was thrilled the movie depicted the way Neptune’s police force is brutally forcing gentrification. Veronica Mars has always used high school as a microcosm to examine social injustice at large, including class disparity and its effects, and this nod to that may be a larger plot should the show move on. Nobody who watched the show or reads the papers would blink at Neptune’s police force being dirty through and through, and Deputy Sacks’ obliteration because he leaned towards the side of good is brutally in keeping with noir’s bleak depictions.
The plot is driven by voyeurism which indicts all of us. Sex tapes, celebrity candid moments, spying on spouses and crime suspects, it’s pushed by the NSA and Vinnie Van Lowe but enabled by the millions of hits we give it. The way technology is ubiquitous and crucial and at times absurdly convenient is true to modern life, but the way Veronica’s classmates salivate over a view of her in an intimate moment is the way L.B. Jeffries observes his dancer neighbor, and Veronica’s later scoping into Gia’s window is itself perfectly reminiscent of Rear Window. This theme was always lurking in the show, but it’s in almost every frame of the movie.
In-jokes abounded, but so did references to Buffy, Sharknado, and things everyone would get. The sly winks toward Kickstarter, the rejected Veronica in the FBI spinoff, and the PG-13 rating fit perfectly fine within this movie, but should more movies/miniseries/spinoffs result, we could be done with these, thanks.
Speaking of the PG-13 rating, they spent all their middle fingers and one F-bomb within the first 15 minutes. An abbreviated sex scene is in keeping with noir and television tradition, but I’ll reserve judgement on that until we see whether the special edition director’s cut adds more. I may be in the minority, but I hope it doesn’t. I’d rather it keep the aesthetic than give more eye candy; a hot and heavy scene doesn’t fit this movie.
5) to the future
If there’s anything else I want out of future adaptations (and there already are some, and I want more, and I count on there being more after the opening weekend it had), it’s more Wallace and Mac. Wallace has always been the perfect straight man, pretending to be horrified and put out by Veronica’s requests but secretly as addicted as she and delighted to be useful to a capable PI. Mac’s position as female nerd/wrongful poor kid/self-made woman presents a wealth of narrative possibilities. Both of them bring a welcome cheerful counterpoint to Keith and Veronica’s dire and dark-humored outlook. Despite the fact things are often dire in Neptune, Veronica Mars is a particular kind of modern noir, and we can all use some happiness now and again.
Which brings us full circle, because despite murder and catty classmates and corruption and an addicted heroine, this movie is pure joy.