It’s been 9 weeks since we originally embarked on this journey that I called Embracing The Melodrama Part II. At that time, my plan was to do 126 reviews in just three weeks. It didn’t quite work out that way, did it? But still, I had fun doing this series of reviews and I hope that you’ve had at least a little fun reading them. If I’ve inspired you take a chance on any of the films that I’ve reviewed — whether it be Sunrise or An American Hippie In Israel or Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction or Calvary — then this has all been worth it!
So, for my final review in this series, I want to take a quick look at one of the most melodramatic films to be released this year so far, Veronika Decides To Die.
Veronika Decides To Die finally got an American release in 2015, six years after it initially premiered on the festival circuit. Years before it was available here in the States, Veronika played in Europe. Not surprisingly, the American release felt much like an afterthought, one final attempt to make a little money off the film before moving on. It’s spent about a week in theaters and two months later, it is now showing up on cable and Netflix. And while Veronika didn’t get many reviews, the few that it did get were rather dismissive.
But you know what?
I like Veronika Decides To Die.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a great film. In many ways, it’s a very silly film. The entire plot hinges on a character doing something that makes no sense. Frustrated with her life as an anonymous and lonely office worker, Veronika (Sarah Michelle Gellar) attempts to commit suicide. She survives the suicide attempt and, upon waking in a mental hospital, she’s told by a mysterious psychologist (David Thewlis) that, as a result of her attempt, she now has a heart condition that will kill her in a matter of weeks. And what does Veronika decide to do after learning that she’s going to die? She voluntarily remains in the mental hospital and goes to sessions of group therapy!
And you never really believe that Veronika would do that. But, if you can bring yourself to accept that one implausibility — well, you’ll soon be confronted by a lot of other implausibilities. You’ll meet Veronika’s glassy-eyed roommate (Erika Christensen) and a mysterious older patient (Melissa Leo). You’ll also meet Edward (Jonathan Tuker), who is mute but has such a sexy stare that he really doesn’t need to speak. And as Veronika gets to know her fellow patients, she starts to come to terms with her own issues of anger and regret and she realize that importance of embracing life and doing what you love.
Of course, that’s a little hard to do when you’re in a mental hospital. Luckily, there’s a piano that Veronika can play while Edward silently watches her. If you’re guessing that this eventually leads to Veronika sitting naked at the piano and masturbating in front of Edward, well, you’re right…
Listen, Veronika Decides To Die is one of those films that takes itself way too seriously and it ends with a plot twist that you’ll see coming from a thousand miles away. I can understand why the film’s release was delayed because the film’s tone is all over the place.
But, dammit, I liked Veronika Decides To Die!
When taken on its own defiantly melodramatic terms, it works. That’s largely because Sarah Michelle Gellar really commits herself to the role. You forget that you’re watching Buffy. Instead, Gellar truly becomes Veronika, this tragically sad and lonely young woman who finds inner peace by masturbating at a piano. Veronika Decides To Die is a movie that really shouldn’t work but Sarah Michelle Gellar saves it. When the film starts, she beautifully captures Veronika’s lonely desperation, her feelings of isolation and worthlessness. (I don’t care who you are, we’ve all felt like Veronika at some point in our life.) As the film progresses, she portrays both Veronika’s anger and her growing appreciation of life. She has a nice chemistry with Jonathan Tucker and, in the end, Sarah Michelle Gellar probably gives a better performance than the material really deserves.
Of course, another reason that Veronika Decides To Die works is because it is so silly and melodramatic. This is one of those films that goes so far over-the-top that it creates an almost heightened sense of reality. It becomes, almost despite itself, compulsively watchable.
It’s also the perfect film with which to complete Embracing the Melodrama Part II. I hope y’all have enjoyed reading these 126 reviews because I’ve certainly enjoyed writing them! To everyone who has read these reviews and clicked on the “like” button and occasionally left a comment or two, thank you so much! Love you! However much effort or work it may take, all of you make it worth it.
And now I’m going to go pass out for a little while…