Directed by: Marjane Satrapi, Rated: R, Runtime: 103 minutes
“A dark comedy about a likeable guy (Ryan Reynolds) pursuing his office crush with the help of his evil talking pets – but things turn sinister when she stands him up for a date.”
Talking to your pets is a normal thing; we all do it. But how often do they talk back to us? In The Voices, Jerry (Ryan Reynolds), has the problem of cross-species communication, as a result of mental illness, and struggles to ignore the evil advice of his sinister cat, Mr. Whiskers. Luckily, he has his own good nature, in the form of Bosco, his faithful canine, and the two animals fight over the conscience of Jerry. What results is a bleak look at mental illness, speckled with humor, and wonderful performances.
Directed by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), The Voices is its own breed of film. It has splashes of similarities with American Psycho and a Jean-Pierre Jeunet production with an added bite of melancholy and a messy bit of blood and gore. It’s a wonderful balance of demented, strange, depressing, and comical, and proves to be one hell of a vehicle for star Ryan Reynolds, who is perhaps in one of his finest roles.
Reynolds brings his likability and charm to the film, immediately removing any hesitations we may have about Jerry. We know he’s sick, but Reynolds is so charismatic and adorably awkward that we trust him as our hero. As the world around Jerry falls apart, we sympathize for the man, even after he’s done some very bad things. The contrast between Jerry’s “normal” moments and faces of reality are heartbreaking, and it’s all more effective thanks to Reynolds. Mental illness is a curse, and seeing Reynolds afflicted with such a poison is even more unsettling.
Now, The Voices is not all about a sick man with his sick thoughts. While those who classify The Voices as a dark comedy are correct, the film still focuses heavily on the dark and less on the comedy. But the comedy that does exist is actually rather funny, with accents of humor helping make the film easier to take in, given the somber themes. The two animals at the center of Jerry’s world are also voiced by Reynolds, with Mr. Whiskers having a foul-mouthed Scottish voice, and Bosco having a down-south “shucks” kind of sound. The conversations that Jerry also holds with the women in his life (Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, and Ella Smith) are just as fascinating.
The Voices may not earn the attention and love it deserves right off of the bat, but it has all of the makings to be a cult-favorite later down the road. With a sense of humor too twisted for mainstream, and a subject matter many shy away from discussing, The Voices will sit quite comfortably in the lower echelons of the film world, festering away each year, to only reveal a soft-spoken genius. And perhaps looking back at the film towards the end of Mr. Reynolds’ career, one would one of his finest performances.
The Good: Ryan Reynolds delivering one of the best performances of his career, showcasing his entire range of abilities
The Strange: Pink jumpsuits, talking animals, and things that go squish under the knife
The Ugly: Mental illness- it is the last thing one would wish upon his/her mortal enemy