The Voices has one of those high-concept ideas, that you can totally see being pitched to a studio with ease. Ryan Reynolds stars as Jerry Hickfang, a likeable, but quiet factory worker, who also happens to be a little mentally unhinged. He hears voices; chiefly those of his two pets, Bosco the dog, and Mr. Whiskers the cat, who act as the respective angel and devil on his shoulders. Mr. Whiskers constantly berates Jerry, always trying to get him to cave in to his desires and kill somebody, whilst Bosco attempts to pull his owner back form the brink, so he can remain a ‘good boy’. When Jerry is stood up for a date by his office crush, events take a turn for the worse, and begin to escalate quickly from there.
The film itself is as strange as the concept. Constantly juggling dark comedy, horror and drama, at times The Voices can feel tonally all over the place, but overall the good far outweighs the bad. The film is darkly comic, uncomfortably so at times, where you may catch yourself laughing at something you probably shouldn’t find funny at all. It’s satirical too, whilst often paying homage to the horror genre; with the usual tropes such as a woman, clothed in white, running through the woods from a knife-wielding killer, making an appearance. The drama is where the film is sorely lacking though, with any kind of attempt at emotional investment failing to make an impact. It isn’t until toward the films end, where Jimmy finally seems to get clarity in terms of his struggle between good and evil, that the idea fully resonates.
Directed by Marjane Setrapi, whose Iranian animated feature Persepolis earned an Oscar nomination in 2008; she couldn’t be further from her comfort zone with this. It’s her direction that I found most interesting about The Voices, as she cleverly plays with colour and lighting, to represent the two realities in which Jimmy lives. When we’re introduced to the character, we see him at work, where his uniform consists of a pink overall; pink being a recurring colour motif through the film. His home is clean and warmly lit, with everything seemingly all in order. It isn’t long until this veil of colour and cleanliness is lifted though, as we begin to see the ‘real’ world that exists around Jimmy when he hasn’t taken his pills. These two versions of the same thing, make you constantly consider what is real and what isn’t, giving The Voices an added depth that saves it from its own ridiculousness.
For all of its black comedy, its actually the direction by Setrapi, as well as the lead performance from Ryan Reynolds, that I enjoyed most about the film. Reyonlds is ingeniously cast as the mentally cracked Jimmy, as his All-American good looks make him an unexpected killer, as well as a promising prospect for the female characters. His performance is much more than that, literally in a sense, as he not only plays Jimmy with animated glee, but provides the voices of his two pets, one of which is Scottish for some unknown reason.
The Voices may have a strong leading performance, as well as some strong direction, but it is still far from perfect though. As I’ve mentioned before, the blend of different genres doesn’t always work; nor is it as funny as the concept itself. I don’t think it’s the future cult classic that it thinks it is, but it is one of the most weird and different films that I have seen in some time, so on that basis alone, I would recommend seeking it out at the cinema.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com