VOD film review: The Voices
James R | On 13, Jul 2015
Director: Marjane Satrapi
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick
Ever since Adventureland, it’s been clear that there was more to Ryan Rodney Reynolds than Van Wilder: Party Liaison. The Voices unleashes it – with wonderfully messy results.
Reynolds plays Jerry, your typical, average, normal guy. He’s nice. A little dim. He works at a factory that makes bathtubs. And he talks to his cat and his dog. The only problem? They talk back.
It’s a cute enough scenario, as loyal best friend Bosco barks encouragement at Jerry, who’s trying to woo his co-worker, Fiona (Gemma Arterton). Mr Whiskers, meanwhile, hisses sarcastic insults at his owner like, well, a cat. After Jerry accidentally commits murder, though, that good-dog-bad-cat routine evolves into an anthropomorphic conscience, one pet telling him to go to the police, the other encouraging him to cover it up – and kill again. It’s your classic angel-on-one-shoulder-and-devil-on-the-other premise, except they both have tails and four legs.
Gemma Arterton is excellent as the object of Jerry’s affections, managing to be patronising, funny and intimidating all with little more than her facial expressions. Anna Kendrick is equally amusing as Lisa, who works in accounts and has a crush on Jerry, not quite realising just how troubled he is.
Reynolds, though, is the star of the show – and he’s never been better. The Hollywood hunk has the manly physique to impress and the gleaming smile to dazzle, but he’s also got enough edgy comic timing to undermine his surface charm: he switches between the hot, simple bloke in the office and a panicking bundle of nerves with alarming ease. That vulnerability makes him sympathetic, but also genuinely unpredictable: it’s a treat just to watch him unravel.
Reynolds also does the voices for both of his pets, a masterstroke from director Marjane Satrapi, who uses that vocal similarity to capture the confusion inside Jerry’s head. The whole production is carefully attuned to his mental state: shots of the set from his perspective are all bright lights and clean colours, while shots from other people’s POV’s reveal Jerry’s home to be poorly lit and dirty.
As Jacki Weaver’s increasingly wide-eyed psychiatrist works out what’s going on, we find ourselves giggling at severed heads, wincing at bad dates and scared by intimate encounters. The tone is all over the place, summed up by one bizarre dance number: 1979’s Sing a Happy Song by the The O’Jays, performed by the cast with shamelessly cheesy grins. It’s weird, it’s hilarious and, for the most part, it’s downright awkward. But where that might normally leave you frustrated, here, that uneasiness feels fitting for its subject matter: The Voices is an exploration of mental illness that, thanks to Reynolds’ committed performance, manages to bring surprising complexity to its subject matter. The result is perfectly unbalanced.