The Voices, 2014.
Directed by Marjane Satrapi.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver, Ella Smith and Stanley Townsend.
A mentally unstable factory worker believes his pets are talking to him and starts to take their less-than-savoury advice in order to pursue the object of his affections.
Ryan Reynolds is one of those actors that, given the right roles, can deliver excellent performances that often get overshadowed by the (lack of) quality of the film that he’s in (The Amityville Horror) or by the fact that he’s a good-looking guy who can grab a drab rom-com role any time he likes just to earn a paycheck (Definitely, Maybe). In The Voices, Reynolds plays Jerry, a likeable factory worker who wants to work hard, please his boss and get involved with the social side of work life by helping to organise a picnic for the employees. However, Jerry has a few issues stemming from a troubled childhood and has to regularly see a court-appointed psychiatrist, but Jerry hasn’t been taking his medication and once he is out of his work environment he believes that his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers (both voiced by Reynolds) talk to him. Which may sound innocent enough, but while Bosco is the voice of reason and wants Jerry to do good, Mr. Whiskers does the opposite and talks Jerry into doing bad things, including committing murder, and after Jerry is stood up by pretty office girl Fiona (Gemma Arterton – Quantum of Solace) and bumps into her in the street, events spiral out of control as Jerry succumbs to Mr. Whiskers’ advice.
Horror and comedy are never the easiest of styles to mash together successfully and whereas The Voices has some very good moments that work tremendously well, overall it meanders all over the place too much to really work in either camp, and with a running time of 103 minutes that’s quite a lot of time to fill without a lot of focus. Ryan Reynolds’ central performances is what keeps you invested for all of the running time as his personable turn as the well-meaning Jerry is the anchor that holds the whole film together, even as the narrative begins to fall apart about 20 minutes before the film actually ends. Reynolds manages to capture that certain niceness in his performance not only with his line delivery but also in his facial expressions and the faraway look in his eyes as Jerry sinks further into insanity, snapping back and forth depending on who he is interacting with; the scene near the end of the film where his captive psychiatrist Dr. Warren (Jacki Weaver – Stoker) tries to talk him round is truly touching, especially as you see Jerry’s ‘normal’ character returning to his face.
But the best scenes are the ones where Jerry is at home and communicating with his pets, especially as Reynolds voices them both (but with different accents) which adds to the feeling of insanity and Jerry being unable to grasp what is real and what isn’t. Our sympathies are justified once we discover Jerry’s entire back-story but by that point in the film Jerry has reached a certain point in his illness that means he cannot go back, and although the end of the film provides some sort of relief for his character it doesn’t provide the proper feeling of satisfaction for the viewer.
Fun to a point, but not necessarily funny, The Voices is a very strange film that will appeal to fans of quirky, oddball dark comedies such as Parents or Society but the inconsistent tone and a lack of energy due to some overly-padded scenes early on means it doesn’t bounce along as well as it could given the nature of the story. Ryan Reynolds gives an Anthony Perkins-esque performance as Jerry and is truly magnificent, although the dark subject matter and schizophrenic execution means that The Voices will probably obtain cult status and will likely stay there amongst those with a taste for the weird but not necessarily wonderful.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★