The Voices, 2014.
Directed by Marjane Satrapi.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick and Jacki Weaver.
A dark comedy about a likeable guy pursuing his office crush with the help of his evil talking pets – but things turn sinister when she stands him up for a date.
Ryan Reynolds has been Hollywood’s almost man for too long now; so close to the brink of superstardom, only to be fiercely dragged back from the A-list promised land by one too many missteps, some of which have stagnated his career beyond repair. There are only so many Green Lantern‘s, R.I.P.D‘s or The Change-Up‘s an audience can take before they become bored, but with The Voices, Reynolds relishes the challenge of not only honing his comic skill, but his acting abilities too, and by doing so delivers his most intriguing performance yet.
Never better, the Canadian excels as peculiar loner Jerry, who from the outset looks like he has had it tough since birth. But his skewed nature grabs the attention of two co-workers: Fiona (Arterton), his office crush, and Lisa (Kendrick), an accounts assistant who has a crush for him. An awkward office party and being stood later, both learn the true nature of Jerry and both are drawn in the recesses of his murky reality that includes severed heads and talking animals.
Reveling in the obscure alcoves of Jerry’s twisted psyche while still able to delivery the comedic timing that many enjoy about him, the film proves that Reynolds is no quitter, and with the right choices here on out, he could still reach that converted acting grail. Kudos too must go to Kendrick and Arterton in particular, who continue to impress off the usual rom-com road both could have easily found themselves down, but like Reynolds aren’t afraid of a challenge.
Michael R. Kelly’s script, on the script blacklist a few years back, is a twisted, delirious joy that makes no quibbles about its gory nature nor its subject matter, but rather than become just another cheap straight-to-DVD that this may look like (certainly to anyone that has seen the disappointingly Photo-shopped poster, which is horrid), it embraces its mix of the sinister and the absurd in the same way that American Psycho did so superbly back in 2000. In fact, The Voices would make a brilliant companion piece to Mary Harron’s “hip to be square” film, in both content and performance.
Satrapi, who made her huge name in the animated world with Persepolis, revels in the live-action world: this is still a cartoon of sorts, after all, with it tone both uneasy and misaligned, much like if The Simpsons made a full-length Itchy and Scratchy cartoon but made strictly for adults. Indeed, you would be forgiven for thinking that all the film really lacks is some zany special effects and sound mixes, and you have yourself one ferocious adult animation.
The film also benefits from the lack of CGI, with Satrapi utilising minimal computer-usage here (the majority used to animated the animals, Mr. Whiskers and Bosco) instead having her actors (namely Arterton, a great sport throughout) interacting with Reynolds through the “old-fashioned” hole in the floor techniques, rather than have him look at a tennis ball, which adds some nice texture to the film.
But for all the unconventional touches and freshness that comes with the concept, this is after all a serial killer film, which does make for an uneasy watch at times. Sure it has its drollness, but there is no denying that the film is gory ans will certainly make you fidget and squirm in equal measure, which will no doubt be too much, and justifiably so.
Brimming with inventiveness, The Voices is a brilliantly original and refreshing black comedy well worthy of your time. It’s nature and tone is a curate’s egg that will put off many, but set your eyes and ears to the right frequency, and you have one of the year’s strangest but thoroughly enjoyable entities.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★