Film Review – The Fault in Our Stars

fblog  fblog2 fblog7fblog4fblog3  fblog6

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, I can say that “The Fault in Our Stars” is truly a great adaptation of its source material, as well as a great film in its own right. I went to see the film with my sceptical mother, who became even more sceptical once she realised the demographic was comprised (other than us) of 13 year-old girls. I’m sadistically happy to report that she ended the film crying her eyes out in the bathroom.


What makes this film so good, and consequently so upsetting, is how authentic and familiar the teenage characters feel – especially the manner in which they face their predicaments. The protagonist, Hazel (Shailene Woodley), states in her introductory narration that this isn’t a film about beautiful people learning beautiful life lessons. Her unfortunate life circumstances and her tragic story aren’t treated as precursors to a moment of epiphany. People in Hazel’s world don’t die because God needs another angel. Her diagnosis, and the diagnoses of her friends, are unfair and random mistakes with no greater philosophical meaning. The absence of a silver lining or a life lesson is what makes the film so hard to swallow, but ultimately so refreshing.

fblog97Woodley is just perfect as Hazel, combining her cynical wit with vulnerability. Her relationship with her parents is, if it’s possible, even more heartbreaking in the film than in the book. The flashbacks to Hazel receiving treatment as a child deepen the later moments with her parents. Her mum (Laura Dern) expresses so much without words; the look on her face when she tells Hazel she can’t afford to take her to Amsterdam, the panic every time Hazel calls her name, and the cheery grin failing to mask so much anxiety, are all tough to watch.fblog93

As in the book, the male lead Augustus (Ansel Elgort) starts off as something of a wish-fulfillment figure or a male version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl prototype, the initial courtship between Hazel and Augustus a little forced. Yet he soon evolves into a fully-developed character in his own right. His role as the confident, charismatic hero helping the more sombre heroine to live a little makes his own story arc all the more affecting, his evolution all the more shocking.

Like the book it remains so faithful to, the film upends the so-called ‘cancer genre’ cliches. “The Fault in Our Stars” replaces sentimentality with realism and ironically produces something that’s even more emotionally moving as a result. Tissues advised.


For my  full review of the book have a gander at


Rewinding Roald Dahl Adaptations

THAMES TV ARCHIVEIt’s recently been announced that Steven Spielberg will direct a new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The BFG” (scheduled for release in 2016). Spielberg is due to team up once again with Melissa Mathison:  he previously collaborated with Mathison in 1982 when she penned the screenplay for Spielberg’s film “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”. Like “E.T.”, a famously heartwarming film following the unlikely friendship between a young boy and a friendly alien, “The BFG” follows an unlikely friendship between a young girl and a friendly giant. With Spielberg’s direction, Mathison’s screenplay, and advancements in film technology, it seems certain that Roald Dahl’s novel is in safe hands. Indeed, “E.T.” even surpassed “Star Wars” to become the highest-grossing film of all time (only to be beaten by “Jurassic Park” ten years later, another Spielberg flick).  First published in 1982, “The BFG” has been adapted once before as an animated feature film (by Cosgrove Hall Films in 1989). That version is apparently Dahl’s favourite adaptation of his own work, and received a standing ovation from the author after his first viewing. There have to date been nine films based on Dahl’s books, and now seems as good a time as any to look back at a few of them.

blogroa98First things first, some trivia: it’s a little known fact that Roald Dahl actually wrote the scripts for several notable films. He wrote the screenplay for the Bond film “You Only Live Twice” (1967), and also co-wrote the screenplay for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (1968) , with the iconic Child Catcher (who possesses all the trademarks of a classic Dahl villain) and the name ‘Truly Scrumptious’ credited solely as Dahl’s inventions. In 1971 “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was adapted to film as “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”; the focus upon Willy Wonka rather than Charlie Bucket (reflected in the name change) was not appreciated by Dahl, who was also unimpressed with the casting of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. He subsequently disowned the film. Nevertheless, this musical adaptation remains highly popular and has reached cult status, and even received an Academy Award for its hilariously eccentric score. It has been aired frequently on television since its release and I’m pretty sure it was a staple of most of my friends’ childhoods. I can still remember being shown an old VHS of this film in school during lunch every single time it was raining.

blogroa99 blogroa95blogroa92“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was re-adapted in 2005 by Tim Burton, with Freddie Highmore of “Finding Neverland” fame starring in the eponymous role and Johnny Depp stepping into Gene Wilder’s shoes as the idiosyncratic  inventor. The director and source material seemed a perfect marriage on paper. Burton is renowned for his penchant for the dark fairytale-esque and his array of oddball but lovable characters (more often than not played by Depp). Indeed, I can hardly believe that Dahl, with his dark sense of humour, predilection for satire, and offbeat imagination, didn’t have a hand in penning Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands”; the playful but bleak depiction of suburbia particularly resembles Dahl’s work. Yet despite the ostensible compatibility of Burton and Dahl, I found Burton’s take on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” a little contrived in  iblogroa94ts efforts to be as quirky as humanly possible. In addition, Depp’s interpretation of Willy Wonka as a child-like innocent with a severe case of arrested development doesn’t really work, and the inclusion of a back-story involving a controlling dentist father and some painful orthodontic procedures is simply unnecessary. Burton’s mistake is, simply, to go over the top: he doesn’t seem to recognise that the book he was adapting was plenty crazy enough. More successful at reflecting the tone of its source material was the 1990 adaptation of “The Witches”. Frequently appearing on lists of the scariest children’s movies of all time, “Thblogroa9e Witches” haunts me even to this day. I can still remember my older brother leaving the room when I was watching “The Witches” because it freaked him out so much. The film doesn’t shy away from its unremittingly terrifying source material, and deals with hideous witches who plot to rid the world of children in a variety of ghastly ways. Three standout terrifying moments include a witch attempting to push a baby in a stroller off a cliff, a young girl forced to grow up inside a painting, and the novel’s hero (a young book named Luke) being turned into a mouse in front of an audience of jeering witches. Casting Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch was a masterstroke: Huston’s talent at conveying the grotesque and frightening was clearly recognised (she went on to be cast as Morticia Addams in “The Addams Family”).

blogroa6 blogroa7The only place this adaptation falls down is in its decision to reverse Dahl’s bittersweet ending. In the original novel, Luke remains stuck in his mouse form, which means he’ll have the short life span of a mouse. The ‘sweet’ part of this ending comes only in the orphan Luke’s consolation that he won’t have to go on living any longer than his elderly grandmother. It’s horrendously depressing. In the film adaptation, conversely, Luke is transformed back into a boy by a ‘good’ witch. While I can understand the reasons behind the filmmakers’ decision to gift the film with a happy ending, Dahl’s novel is far more poignant and in keeping with the perpetually disturbing atmosphere of the book.
blogroa97 Stop-motion animation has been used for two adaptations – the 1996  “James and the Giant Peach” (which uses a mixture of stop-motion and live action) and the 2009 “Fantastic Mr. Fox”. Directed by the notoriously whimsical Wes Anderson and starring the voice talents of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is predictably witty and charming, yet is missing some of the darker undertones Dahl is known for. “James and the Giant Peach” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, though, both utilize the stop-motion animation to full effect, and consequently manage to adapt those books which would otherwise be un-adaptable (due to their focus on foxes and, well, a giant peach full of bugs). Indisputably the greatest Dahl adaptation, however, is Danny DeVito’s 1996 version of “Matilda”.


DeVito transfers the action to suburban America, a move which provides the perfect arena for exploring the book’s latent themes (such as consumerism and parental neglect). DeVito and Rhea Perlmblogroa4an are perfectly cast as Matilda’s parents, pretty much evil but just stupid enough that they remain on the funny side. Pam Ferris’ representation of Miss Trunchball, meanwhile, constitutes the perfect villain and probably had children quaking in their boots at the thought of being sent to the headmistress’ office for years after seeing the film. “Matilda” includes moments which have gone on to become iconic: Bruce Bogtrotter and the chocolate cake, Amanda Thripp being hurled around by her pigtails, and pretty much any scene with Miss Trunchball. One of my particular favourite scenes includes a classroom of children spelling the word ‘difficulty’ using a poem (“Mrs D, Mrs I, Mrs FFI, Mrs C etc”) and Miss Trunchball’s furious response (“Why are all these women MARRIED?”). Even moments in which  Matilda jubilantly makes pancakes to the sound of Rusted Root’s “Send Me On My Way” and jams out to Thurston Harris’ “Little Bitty Pretty One” after discovering her telekinetic powers, remain entrenched in numerous children’s imaginations. In fact, I think I can say with absolute assurance that Mara Wilson’s portrayal of Matilda blogroa25was formative for pretty much any bookworm who grew up in the 90s (myself being one of them). “Matilda” has since gone on to become a successful stage musical, winning seven Olivier awards in 2012. I found the musical impressive, but missed the subtle emotional core at the heart of the original novel and the film adaptation.

I’m a fan of anything that introduces new readers to Dahl’s inventive world. I can’t imagine a childhood without Roald Dahl’s stories and, thanks to those who continue to adapt these books in order to bring them to new audiences, more and more children will grow up realising it’s okay to be different (because you might just develop magic powers). While we’re waiting for Spielberg’s newest addition to this list of adaptations, we can all relive Dahl’s novels and follow Matilda’s example…


Film Review – The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (major spidey spoilers)

blogsp“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” follows on from 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man”, which was itself a reboot of Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy (concluded only in 2007). Created only in order to enable Sony to hold onto the rights of the franchise, the reboot  offered little in the way of originality or creative integrity. While it delved into the background of Peter Parker’s parents and introduced Gwen Stacy as Peter’s first love (in a move which surely enthused the diehard comic book fans), the blogsp7film otherwise merely recycled plot elements from Raimi’s “Spider-Man” and failed to really find a fresh origin story or an ingenious manner of introducing the superhero’s mythology. Uncle Ben, whose murder provides the major catalyst for Spider-Man’s vigilante mission and who originates Spider-Man’s famous adage ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, has much less gravitas in the reboot (even though he’s played by Martin Sheen aka President Bartlet) and his death delivers a much less potent emotional punch. Much of the first film felt tedious and prosaic in its delivery; after all, we’d seen it all just ten years before. I don’t actually have a problem with Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man incarnation. While I personally prefer Tobey Maguire’s shy and unassuming portrayal of Peter Parker (providing a better antithesis for his spidey-suit wearing counterpart and creating a nerd icon for all us nerds), Garfield brings his own brand of misfit vibes to the role. Additionally, according to my comic book sources (i.e. my brothers), Garfield’s simultaneous sarcastic and angst-ridden representation of Spider-Man is actually closer in essence to the original comic book character than Maguire’s. He’s also severely easy on the eyes, which doesn’t hurt.

blogsp94 blogsp95

blogsp96 blogsp97

Anyway, if you agree with my preamble about the superfluousness inherent in the very idea of a “Spider-Man” reboot, then the chances are you’ll probably also find the majority of this sequel tired and hackneyed. To be fair, with the absolutely huge influx of superhero movies in the past decade or so, it must be very difficult for screenwriters to find an innovative approach to the genre. Nevertheless, in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” the mishmash of elements derived from preceding superhero films is particularly conspicuous. The opening segment aboard the plane, for example, plays out as a far less invigorating version of Bane’s airborne attack at the beginning of “The Dark Knight Rises”. The superhero’s attempts to keep his love interest at an arm’s length in a heroic but misguided attempt to protect her is a recurring motif – see “The Dark Knight” and, particublogsp92larly, the original “Spider-Man” trilogy. The thinly-drawn villains are perhaps the weakest aspect of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”. Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan) is introduced as Peter’s estranged childhood friend with some clunky and unsubtle exposition. His transition from vague goodie to unequivocal baddie is far-fetched and inexplicable even for a superhero movie: his vendetta against Spider-Man is instigated by the eponymous character’s refusal to give Harry a vial of his blood (so that Harry can find a cure for a degenerative disease he’s afflicted with). Upon discovering that his new-found arch-enemy Spider-Man and his best friend Peter Parker are one and the same, Harry has little to no reaction. Nor does the audience: while the strained friendship between Peter and Harry is mapped out over three films by Raimi, the viewers of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” are seemingly supposed to care about a friendship that has had mere minutes of screen time devoted to its depiction. blogsp91Jamie Foxx as Electro is similarly given little to do in the way of illustrating his character’s motivation and development. His character pre supervillain transformation is sympathetic and amusing, but post transition Foxx is lost amidst a cloud of CGI and an over-the-top hammy performance. DeHaan is similarly transformed by the make-up department into something resembling an over-sized gremlin, and his performance becomes pantomime-style to compensate. The film in general is over-stuffed and struggles to contain all of its disparate elements, in actuality developing none of them to the extent required for audience engagement. The script is incredibly unfocused  and the various strands of story, for me at least, fail to be drawn together by the time the credits roll.blogsp3

The strongest aspect of the film, hands down, is the chemistry between Peter and Gwen (Emma Stone). If the plot was shaved down of extraneous detail, the narrative drive of the film would be represented by the conflicted relationship between these two. While, as I’ve mentioned, there’s nothing particularly original about their storyline, it does at least reflect the only real attempt the film makes at representing psychologicblogsp2al realism. Their verbal exchanges are at times genuinely heartfelt, and the director (the aptly named Marc Webb) certainly seems to be far more comfortable during these scenes than during the rather rushed action sequences. The most powerful moment of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, as well as the most depressing, comes near the film’s conclusion. In a move comic book (or Wikipedia) readers had seen coming a mile off, Gwen is killed off despite Peter’s near-successful attempt to save her. The death scene drew audible gasps and muffled sobs from the audience in the auditorium in which I viewed the film, as well as a loud ‘I can’t believe they’ve actually killed her’ exclamation. Indeed in a

blogsp5superhero world in which people routinely survive nuclear explosions, alien invasions, and attempts at mass genocide, the fact that a character with a well-established fan base would kick the bucket is pretty exceptional. The manner in which she died was particularly upsetting. Having seen Spider-Man save Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) from falling to her death with his webbing just in the nick of time in 2001, here we see Spider-Man fail to catch Gwen before her head smacks against the ground. Indeed Peter’s distraught and shocked reaction was shared by most of the audience…

blogsp1There are, then, a handful of moments in the film which are worthy of watching. Overall though “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” fails to make its own mark against its superior superhero competitors, to define its identity outside of the original trilogy, and even to justify the need for its existence. With the strong “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” preceding its release, and the highly-anticipated “X-Men: Days of Future Past” succeeding it, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” will likely be the forgettable filling in a spring superhero sandwich.  Garfield and Stone try their best, but are ultimately unable to hold up a whole film on the shoulders of their authentic chemistry alone. Plus, try as they might, the new “Spider-Man” movies are never going to be able to replicate this iconic moment…


Film Review – Divergent (spoiler light-ish)

blogd1 blogd2“Divergent” made an impressive $56 million during its opening weekend, easily leaving recent YA adaptation box office flops “Beautiful Creatures” and “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” trailing forlornly in the dust. Adapted from Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” trilogy, the film has been hotly anticipated as the potential successor to the colossal “The Hunger Games” trilogy. There are indeed certain cursory similarities. “Divergent” is set in a futuristic dystopian Chicago in which society is divided by personality type into five distinct factions. “The Hunger Games” is set in a similarly post-apocalyptic United States, in which an autocratic ‘Capitol’ presidblogd11es over twelve sharply divided districts. Yet while “The Hunger Games” revolves around a teenaged heroine, it never feels like it can merely be enjoyed and appreciated by the very age group it portrays. The idea of a reality program in which children fight to the death as a punishment for their parents’ insurrection is both clever and disturbing; its uncanny parallels with our reality-obsessed society can be appreciated by people of all ages. The premise of “Divergent” is much less inventive. The surviving population of Chicago is separated into factions: Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the smart), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest) and Abnegation (the selfless). This form of cataloging taps into our obsession with self-categorization and self-analysis, attested to by the sheer volume of ‘Which (insert anything here) are you?’ quizzes on Buzzfeed. To this day I have friends discussing which Hogwarts house they’d be sorted into, or even whether they’d be a House Stark or a House Lannister if they lived in Westeros. Indeed there’s now even a Buzzfeed quiz for “Divergent” fans – see (I was Abnegation: apparently if I was Tris I’d have stayed safely in my faction and there’d be no story to tell).

blogd8 blogd10But (spoiler) some people don’t fit neatly into one category. These people are ‘divergent’. So the film has a very simply premise with a very simple message: people are complicated and conformity is bad. Criticisms of the plot’s basis aside, my reaction to watching much of “Divergent” can be summarized by this gif…

blogd13The film was entertaining and easy to watch. Despite its 139 minute running time, it didn’t feel particularly bloated or inclusive of superfluous material. The extended time meant the film was able to develop the central relationship and flesh out the protagonists’ characters realistically. The hamminess and simplicity of the plot itself was countered by the fun of self-insertion into the narrative. (What faction would I be in? What would my fear landscape look like?) The charisma of, and chemistry between, the two leads really anchored the film and more than made up for the unremarkable story and the vaguely tedious climax. Shailene Woodley proved her acting chops in “The Descendants” a couple of years ago and she proves them again here as the Abnegation-turned-Dauntless sixteen year old Tris Prior. She manages to deliver some fairly cheesy lines with a straight face (which is more than can be said for the cast of “Twilight”) and, like Jennifer Lawrence, is able to convey conflicting emotions and thoughts, described in detail using the first person narrative in the source material, with just a facial expression. I wasn’t sure about Theo James as the semi-Byronic Four when I first heard the casting news but he turned out to be more than a match for Woodley. Just look at the angst and intensity!

blogd4 blogd5


“Divergent” is definitely flawed and, superficial comparisons aside (strong female lead, dystopian setting), it’s definitely no “The Hunger Games”. It is, however, a highly gratifying experience if you try not to compare it to anything that’s come before it. Masquerading as an action piece, it’s effectively a straightforward and slightly hokey romance and coming-of-age story centered around a futuristic sorting hat. And I’m looking forward to the next helping in March 2015.


Throwback Thursday: Mystic Pizza ex post facto


Roger Ebert declared in 1988: ‘I have a feeling that Mystic Pizza may someday become known for the movie stars it showcased back before they became stars.’ Indeed, the film is now known for its inclusion of a pre-“Pretty Woman” fame Julia Roberts, later described by a cast member as a ‘bomb waiting to go off’. Lili Taylor and Annabeth Gish, the other two legs of the film’s tripod, only experienced modest professional success in comparison with Roberts’ cataclysmic eminence. While Roberts is currently enjoying a career renaissance for her role alongside Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County” and is participating in record-breaking celebrity selfies, Taylor is playing Captain Maldonado on “Almost Human”, while Gish sporadically pops up in guest spots on a variety of procedural dramas. Yet to categorise “Mystic Pizzablogtay17” as a mere launching pad for Julia Roberts’ ascent to stardom is to incorrectly assume she monopolises the film. “Mystic Pizza” is an ensemble piece and much of its charm relies on the communal, as well as the individual, strength of its cast.The film centers equally on three waitresses working at the eponymous Mystic Pizza restaurant in Connecticut. These girls have disparate personalities, consequently allowing a range of experiences and emotions to be explored and depicted throughout the film. This astute trope has been repeated by the likes of “Sex and the City” and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”, with women falling into certain ‘types’ in order to reflect diversity in female friendship and to increase the probability that viewers will have a character or situation to identify with.


Yet the women in “Mystic Pizza” refuse to be confined to their assigned pigeonholes. Kat Arujo (Annabeth Gish) is ostensibly the scholar, bookworm and all round good girl. She picks up slack for other people, focuses on her academic future and does what’s right. Yet in the film she decides, foblogtay23r once, to follow her heart instead of her head, with disastrous emotional consequences. The moment in which the future Yale University student sobs ‘I just feel so stupid’ is agonizing to watch; this scene is unfortunately all too relatable for many smart girls who’ve surprised themselves and acted like idiots when it comes to liking a guy. Kat’s older sister, Daisy (Julia Roberts), is pretty and vivacious. Yet her brash veneer masks uncertainty: she knows all too well she’s the bad counterpart to the angelic Kat and feels itblogtay7‘s too late to alter her course in life. Her relationship with a rich college dropout further highlights her insecurities relating to her class and educational status. Jojo Barbosa (Lili Taylor) provides much of the comic relief through her cat and mouse power struggle with the man she loves but doesn’t yet feel ready to marry. While her predicament is amusing, her reluctance to settle down also provides several poignant moments, as she questions how much of her independence she is willing to give away for love. During the 25 year reunion last October, Lili Taylor said there ‘was something innocent and pure about’ the film while co-star Vincent D’Onofrio said of the female leads, ‘the three of them were so uniquely different and so uniquely powerful in their own ways, it was striking.’ Both of these comments encapsulate the film’s strengths – its ability to wear its heart on its sleeve without being saccharine, and its credible depiction of discrete women.

blogtay6 blogtay8

“Mystic Pizza” is more than just a coming-of-age tale: it is a touching and authentic tribute to sisterhood and female friendship and an underrated film deserving of greater recognition alongside its fellow 1980s classics. If you’re not intrigued by any of that, it’s at least worth a watch just to see this little fella in his first screen role (looking a little lost without his buddy, Ben Affleck).


He has one solitary line:

‘How do you like them apples?’

‘Mom, do you want my green stuff?’

Film Review – Veronica Mars (spoilers ahoy)

veronica-mars-movie-posterThe “Veronica Mars” movie was funded by and written for the fans, and you can tell. Its dedication to its fans should be celebrated, and its ability to additionally please newcomers admired. Cancelled in 2007, the neo-noir television show revolves around teenage outcast and part-time private investigator Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), who attempts to simultaneously solve her best friend’s murder and her own rape. Set in the fictional Neptune, California, “Veronica Mars” is known for its cast of idiosyncratic characters (think a sinister version of the Stars Hollow residents in “Gilmore Girls”), its snappy dialogue, and its propensity for exploring darker themes than those included on other shows aimed at teenage audiences. The show amassed an extremely dedicated, if concentrated, fan base during its three season run. I saw the film in Leicester Square on the day of release and most of the audience (including myself) varied between these two Kristen Bell-esque reactions…


Fans of “Veronica Mars”, dubbed ‘marshmallows’, funded the film version out of their own pockets. The 2013 Kickstarter fundraiser, started by creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell, became the most backed campaign in Kickstarter history. 91,585 donors raised $5,702,153 (being a pauper I generously donated $1) and subsequently brought the show back to life, albeit in a different form, six years after the CW killed it. Perhaps for this reason, the film serves more as a love letter to the fans than anything else. It almost reads as a tangible reflection of a fan’s daydreams. It’s an exercise in wish-fulfillment, a canonization of all fans’ hopes, and a big thank you to the cash cows. The inclusion of fan-favourite “Veronica Mars” catchphrases (‘Who’s your daddy?’), the allusions to fan-favourite moments (‘Our story is epic’), and randomly but hilariously placed familiar faces (Celeste Kane in the car with the revolver), mean the film is a veritable amusement park of knowing self-references for the perceptive fan.

blogv1This reverence for fan enjoyment and engagement is no flaw, and to take into account the hopes of viewers does not impede artistic integrity. As Kristen Bell says:

‘I would want to know what the fans want, to be honest. I don’t say that insincerely. As an artist, you want to do things that your audience likes and wants and appreciates and gets excited about.’

Despite this warranted pandering to the fans, screenwriter Rob Thomas somehow also manages to produce a film which is both coherent in its own right and entertaining to the casual observer. Despite its constant throwbacks and homages to the show, and its generally self-reflexive nature, I can’t imagine it would alienate new viewers; its plot is self-contained and cohesive. Theblogv18 film also serves as more than an elongated episode, instead taking the opportunity to deepen and enrich elements explored during the show’s initial run using the larger medium of film. Just as Joss Whedon used film when adapting “Serenity” from his TV series “Firefly” to widen his creative scope, Thomas scales up his show to match the new film format. The incompetence and the sinister nature of the sheriff’s department in the show, for example, is replaced by full-scale corruption in the film. Weevil’s cinematic arc in his return to gang warfare after cleaning up his life and becoming the target of the aforementioned corruption feels both inexorable and iniquitous. The film also benefits from a plethora of celebrity cameos and bit parts: James Franco, Martin Starr, Justin Long, Gaby Hoffman, Dax Shepard, Jamie Lee Curtis and Ira Glass all make appearances. This seems fitting, as the show is now retrospectively hilarious due to the unexpected guest stars that pop up (Paris Hilton on a pink moped, Adam Scott as a lecherous teacher, and Kevin Smith as a store clerk, to name but a few).

veronica mars veronica mars2 veronica mars3

The film occasionally fails to be quite as quippy as its small-screen counterpart, the adult Veronica’s put-downs lacking the impudence and wit of her teenage incarnation. Yet the important thing is that even after seven years away from Neptune, these feel like the same characters to the viewer, and it feels like the film is occupying the same fictional universe. Neptune is even more ominous and characters have aged but everything is still recognizable after a little reacquainting. Kristen Bell steps back into Veronica’s sleuthing shoes so easily that it seems she’s never stepped out of them.

‘My nerves were high jumping back into it, but within 10 minutes I realized she lives in my skin for some reason,’ Bell said. ‘There’s something magical abblogv23out playing this part and I love it.’

Veronica’s relationship with her father, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), a core element of the show, features prominently in the film and Keith’s near-death experience provides a highly emotional moment. I think, however, that many fans would agree that the passionate love-hate relationship between Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) and Veronica was the crux of the show, and the way in which their romance was left on the rocks and in doubt provided a major impetus for the campaign to continue Veronica’s story on screen. Fans didn’t just want a LoVe reunion; they expected it. Yet despite almost being a mandatory requirement for fan approval of the film, their reconciliation didn’t feel labored. Veronica is immediately presented living in New York content but spiritless, and upon her return to Neptune, and Logan,  reanimated. Logan has always been characterized as the classic bad boy, and the youthfully passionate but ultimately undependable and dangerous romantic choice for Veronica. I’m glad that Thomas chose to slightly soften Logan’s edge with age, bringing to the forefront his inherently good qualities and presenting him instead as a ‘stabilizing influence’ on those around him, while still retaining his interior intensity. Changes in their characters thus meant their reunion was inevitable – and not only because fans would have stormed Thomas’ house with pitchforks if it didn’t occur.

blogv12 blogv14

The show never avoided darkness and its season-long murder mystery arcs in seasons one and two were painstakingly plotted. If the central mystery in the film is less intricate and the revelations and payoff less invigorating, it is due only to necessary time constraints. In general, though, the mystery is well constructed if not complex, and it feels fitting that it involves so many familiar faces. To incorporate so many old characters and to center the mystery upon the ten year Neptune High reunion is clearly a plot contrivance, but a necessary one which is executed unaffectedly. Rob Thomas had an exceptionally difficult task in concurrently pulling together existing loose threads, filling in the nine year gap, introducing a self-supporting plot, and pleasing those fans who filled the producers’ piggy bank with pennies. The man deserves a medal for managing this feat, and all within a trim running time.


“Veronica Mars” was successful because anyone who ever felt like an outsider could identify with the main character’s societal exclusion while finding her sassiness and chutzpah in the face of such adversity aspirational. The show is effectively an anthem for exiles and that’s what makes the communal experience of watching the film so special.

‘I convinced myself winning meant getting out, but in what world do you get to leave the ring and declare victory? This is where I belong, in the fight; it’s who I am. I’ve rolled around in the mud for so long, wash me clean, and I don’t recognize myself.’

If this is how the “Veronica Mars” franchise is concluded we should be grateful. The film leaves Veronica in Neptune with the knowledge that she’s turned her back on the New York life that bores her to death. She’ll still be doing what she does best, kicking ass and taking names, fighting fraudulence, her relationship with Logan resuscitated if not tied up with a big bow. But the marshmallows should clearly never be underestimated, so don’t be surprised if we see Veronica again in some form…


A bildungsroman for the twenty-something: where is the fiction for the flailing graduate?

bloggrad4 bloggrad3 bloggrad5 bloggrad2

The stage between living with your parents and entering the real world as a fully-fledged adult is fraught with emotional and financial peril. I’m a member of the so-called ‘Peter Pan’ generation.  We millennials (it’s claimed) are entitled underachievers who expect jobs to be handed to us on a plate upon completion of our highly theoretical degrees – despite our evident lack of vocational expertise. Nothing can prepare the ambitious graduate for the jarring realisation that no one cares about his or her thoughts on Foucault. Employers, fairly enough, just want to know whether a potential employee is able to photocopy or make a drinkable cup of coffee.

bloggrad22 bloggrad23

In correlation with this bitter sting of professional disappointment, many graduates succumb to deep existential angst. They suddenly realise they might not be able to become the Prime Minister or the Director-General of the BBC with the ease they had once assumed. They realise their CV is identical to thousands of others sitting in a stack collecting dust on a desk. They also realise there’s a good chance they might end up being the person sitting at the singles’ table at their friends’ weddings for the next few decades. Being forced to suddenly readjust or discard the dreams and assumptions you’ve held since you were a child leads to an awful lot of soul-searching. This is no new phenomenon, although the media certainly has a renewed interest in the flailing graduate of late, perhaps as a result of the recession coupled with the perpetual discussion around HBO’s “Girls”.

Deemed the quarter-life crisis, representations of this specific and highly-relatable stage of life are now pervasive in film and television. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that we are now living at home for longer, are our parents’ financial dependents for longer, and are likely to marry and enter full-time employment later rather than sooner. Back in the day, a child reached maturity at the age of 18 and the apron strings were abruptly cut. The bildungsroman, meaning ‘novel of education/formation’, was a termbloggrad28bloggrad27 coined in 1819, and was characterized by a protagonist’s emotional and physical growth from childhood to adulthood. Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre”, George Eliot’s “The Mill on the Floss”, Olive Schreiner’s “The Story of an African Farm” and Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” are just a few nineteenth-century prototypes of this genre. This format, of course, is now represented more widely by the standard ‘coming-of-age’ novel. Books like Jeanette Winterson’s “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit” and S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” constitute prim?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????e examples of this genre.

Yet the collegiate, and particularly the post-collegiate, phases are largely absent in literature. This is a huge gap in the literary market that ought to be capitalised upon. Originally touched upon by “The Graduate”, this angsty and awkward phase of life was mined by Lena Dunham for her TV series “Girls” and her debut film “Tiny Furniture”, and she has reaped the rewards in critical accolades and column inches for this astute move. There is something simultaneously so disturbing and so captivating in seeing your own life in all its grim detail mirrored so accurately in art. The unpaid internships, grotty flats, disillusioning relationships and irrational life decisions Dunham writes about are surely something all twenty-somethings can relate to. The eponymous character in “Frances Ha”, a 27 year-old aspiring dancer, also suffers from arrested development. Both “Frances Ha” and “Tiny Furniture” are clearly inspired by the mumblecore movement, a sub-group of films identified by their penchant for naturalism. “Funny Ha Ha”, credited as thbloggrad31e original mumblecore film, bleakly follows its protagonist, Marnie, as she shuffles between her temp job and romantic disappointments without any real sense of purpose. “Reality Bites”, following a group of Generation X college graduates, rather than our Generation Y, is perhaps the pinnacle of those films depicting the post-graduation psychological slump. Lelaina’s (Winona Ryder) mournful comment –  ‘I was really going to be something by the age of 23’ – perhaps encapsulates the disenchantment characteristic of that age group. “Like Crazy” and “Felicity”  also demonstrate the painful fact that angst endures well past high school graduation. All of these films also serve as a snapshot of the simultaneous idealism and anxiety young adults face in their personal and professional lives.


Such films validate the experience of us twenty-somethings and perhaps tell us it’s alright to not have our shit together at this stage of our lives. Yet such literary consolation is few and far between. While adults in their twenties are still able to identify with the universal discontentment of Holden Caulfield and other angst-ridden youths, few books deal with explicitlybloggrad7 twenty-something problems. Helen Fielding’s epistolary novel “Bridget Jones’s Diary” expresses the prevalent dissatisfaction, confusion and crushing weight of disappointment felt by graduates as they enter the so-called ‘real world’, yet only succeeds in notifying us those feelings will last for at least a decade more. Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” details the interior life of a college student who expresses an emotional numbness and a lack of conviction in his life choices. Aside from these, I can’t think of any immediately relevant written material. The transition from child to adult is bumpy, and despite the implications inherent in the volume of YA fiction produced, emotional development occurs not primarily at puberty but at the point at which the overgrown child is flung from the nest. This time of life, at once full of confusion and potential, is abundant with creative possibility and I predict that this will soon be reflected in our literary choices.

bloggrad8 bloggrad21