Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 43 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Bloody Violence, and for Language including Sexual References
Directed by: Marjane Satrapi
Written by: Michael R. Perry
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Anna Kendrick, Gemma Arterton & Jacki Weaver
I was interested in seeing THE VOICES from the first moment I heard about it. This sounded like a quirky dark comedy that would be out of the ordinary. Though he’s become known for fast-and-cheap comedies, Ryan Reynolds seems to have a knack for choosing quality independent projects (BURIED) and this film is no different. After over a year of waiting, THE VOICES has finally been released and it’s an entertaining (if tonally inconsistent) film. I’m still trying to fully process my overall emotional reaction to this movie as it’s a strange beast to dissect. The misleading promotional material hasn’t exactly done the dark story justice. The trailer plays it up as a ridiculous comedy, but that’s not necessarily the case…which is one of the reasons why I like this film so much.
Jerry is a nice guy with mental problems. He’s an awkward new worker at a factory and frequently sees a court-appointed therapist. Jerry also takes care of his two pets, a dog named Bosco and a cat named Mr. Whiskers. His pet situation is odd in that these two animals literally talk to him. While Bosco is a friendly hound, Mr. Whiskers constantly ridicules Jerry. After a brief series of mishaps that involve being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Jerry has blood on his hands. Bosco urges Jerry to turn himself into the police and Mr. Whiskers tries to convince Jerry to embrace his killer instinct. This mentally unhinged factory worker’s life only gets worse from there on out…
THE VOICES combines an over-the-top sense of dark comedy with a grim little horror story into one deranged genre-bending mix. The visuals are beautiful to look at and there seems to be a lot of attention paid to detail. One aspect that I really loved is that almost the entire movie is seen from Jerry’s perspective. When he takes pills (to control his delusions), we see the ugly and sad state of his life. When he goes off his meds and starts getting crazier, everything looks chipper and upbeat. The latter becomes ridiculously apparent in one scene that had me laughing out loud multiple times. The sense that we’re watching the insanity of this character adds an unnerving quality to the film that I wasn’t expecting at all. I spent half of this movie cackling at the humor and the other half emotionally invested in Jerry’s troubled life.
It may sound odd, but Jerry is actually a sympathetic character for the most part. He’s doing unforgivable things, but this film also shows him struggling with his schizophrenic identity. One great scene has him sitting down with various personalities of himself (in his dog, his cat, and a victim’s severed head) and having a serious discussion about who he really is. Ryan Reynolds is outstanding in the role of Jerry and the supporting cast members are equally great. These include Anna Kendrick and Gemma Arterton as two of Jerry’s love interests and Jacki Weaver as Jerry’s frustrated therapist. However, the mix of emotional drama (some of the flashback scenes are really heavy and disturbing) and wacky comedy (the most jarring moment comes in the end credits) make for a tonally unbalanced film. This didn’t ruin the movie for me in the slightest, but it’s noticeable and might be too distracting for some viewers.
THE VOICES isn’t only a dark comedy. Instead, it’s a genre-bending exercise that surprised me in a lot of ways. I was initially expecting to laugh my ass off at how ridiculous this story would be, but I emotionally bought into the character of Jerry. I cared about him and was upset by some scenes (in a very good way). There was clearly a lot of professionalism put into this film because the cinematography looks beautiful, the script is interesting, and the performances are solid all around. Those hoping for a laugh riot might be disappointed. THE VOICES is essentially MANIAC with two talking pets and a nasty sense of humor. Take that as you will.