Storywonk Sunday talked a lot about the Veronica Mars movie on this week’s episode, and when I checked my archives for the last week of March, I was surprised to find out that I actually hadn’t talked much about the movie, just gave it a brief shout-out in a ‘What’s up Wednesday’ post. So here is where I ramble at length about the film. As stated in the title, beware the spoilers.
So, the first thing I want to get into right away is the way Veronica’s internal conflict was handled in the movie, and particularly the narratives she tells herself about that conflict to frame one side of that struggle as right and the other as wrong. This is something that we all do when we’re faced with a deeply personal struggle, so it’s no surprise that a lot of fictional characters do it.
The basic conflict is, as Lani from Storywonk put it, who Veronica is versus who she wants to be. At the opening of the film, she’s put Neptune and PI work behind her, graduated college and gone through law school, and she’s about to get a great job at a New York law firm. She has only a few days to start work before she finds out that her ex-boyfriend Logan is in legal trouble, chief suspect in a murder of one of their high school classmates, and so she flies back home to help him out.
But the story that Veronica tells herself about this is a narrative about an addict coming dangerously close to relapsing; she thinks that the excitement and danger of working mystery cases was like a drug to her, and she’s been ‘clean’ for ten years now. At first she says that she’s not even going to try to find the real killer, just help Logan interview lawyers and find somebody qualified to defend him, but she starts to ‘slip’ and hates herself for getting up to her old tricks, tracking down witnesses and finding possible motives.
Near the climax, though, Veronica muses that ‘I told myself I won because I got out of Neptune. But what kind of victory is it when you leave the battle ground?’ As she works the case, she’s reminded once again of the corruption that still permeates Neptune; it’s a town full of rich people convinced that they can buy exactly the justice they want, and plenty of cops willing to sell (out.) Incidentally, I always felt that when they moved away from that theme in season three of the series, the show suffered for it, not because it’s crucial to what the show is, but because there wasn’t really anything as compelling to make up for losing it.
So, with this little epiphany, Veronica moves away from the narrative of addiction, and though it’s not made as explicitly, I get the impression of a new narrative, of Veronica the clever trickster, fighting for justice as she saw it and using tricks just as dirty as those of the corrupt cops and sleazy criminals to fight them. Veronica has always had a unique kind of morality, that latches on to people, not necessarily ironclad rules of behaviour. And if she has to make herself a monster to protect the people she sees as good, (like the Operative in Serenity,) she might choose to do that, but generally her sins are venial and easy to excuse based on the results she has in mind.
So anyway, Veronica turned away from the good fight at the end of the series, maybe she was just too tired and had lost too much, but realized that she needed to stay in Neptune and do whatever she could. It’s a great note to end the movie on, I think.
That’s most of what I wanted to contribute, since a lot of what I loved about the movie has been covered ad nauseum elsewhere. I loved the suddenness of the transition from the mystery story to the suspense climax, the part where Veronica knows who the bad guy is, but he also knows that she’s found him out and comes after her, determined to shut her up any way he can, carrying a gun.
I also really loved the use of the cell phone in those scenes. People say that cell phones ruin the suspense of thrillers, but I think they just change the rules and tropes you have to work with. Veronica has a phone, and she calls 911 (telling them that a cop has been shot, which I loved as a cynical gambit,) and also makes good use of it as a diversion while she’s hiding, calling another cell phone which she knows is across the room, drawing the killer’s attention in that direction, making him think that it’s her phone that is ringing at the wrong moment.