“The only time I felt truly alive is when I’m killing.”
Watching The Voices is like engaging in a budding new romance which you know will turn sour. It hits every high note in the first act, even compelling me to write down, “Perfect thus far.” Sadly, like so many good things, the kookiness and irreverent fun are dissipated to make way for a tonally inconsistent and always peculiar movie. It’s technically a dark comedy despite the infrequent laughs, and plays exactly like the colorfully bizarre world of the Twilight Zone’s movie segment called “It’s a Good Life.” The Voices stumbles to the finish line and ultimately falls short, losing the established restraint and overall vision established early on. Still, like the Twilight Zone bit’s indifference to overall quality, the oddities and strangeness of The Voices shows a willingness to scalp its audience just to wring its way into the creases and folds of our memory.
Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) is the surreptitious new guy in shipping at the Milton factory. He worships Fiona (Gemma Arterton) in accounting while her coworker Lisa (Anna Kendrick) reserves her girlish crush on the mysterious warehouse employee. Observing Jerry is like doing one of those side by side picture comparisons where you look for the differences between the two images. You know something is wrong with him. It’s just not initially clear, at least until he begins holding conversations with his cat Mr. Whiskers and his dog Bosco (both expertly and expressively voiced by Reynolds himself.) The trained dog fulfills the angel on Jerry’s shoulder while the feline cleverly plays devil’s advo-cat. The Voices starts as smart as it is unsettling.
Of her four films, I have only seen director Marjane Satrapi’s Oscar nominated animation Persepolis, adapted from her own lauded graphic novel (check out both, they’re wonderfully realistic portrayals of youth during wartime and political revolution.) Satrapi sticks to the landscapes she knows so well, at times giving The Voices the color scheme, one-liners, and distinctly framed shots of graphic novels and comic books. It works well to start, seeing vivid pinks and reds and yellows that pop and give depth to characters and situations. Visually it’s the brightest dark comedy I have seen. I was just left baffled by the story, completely unsure of what was so supposedly being said. It’s a psychological drama and serial killing mystery all wrapped into the offbeat world which belongs somewhere in the realm of a Mike Judge 90’s satire. As you can tell from that horrific sentence, The Voices is composed of too many damn moving pieces for its own good.
Reynolds is perfectly cast as an evil incarnation of vagary in a story which really takes place in two different realities. There’s the sorbet colored reality when Jerry is on his meds and somewhat functioning as a normal person. Then there is the muted reality, the step out of the matrix and into the brutal truth that is Jerry’s actual world. It effectively visualizes the tormented and truly twisted souls residing in the very few, how a little pill can replace all the bad with an abundance of good. The second half of the movie simply is not very enjoyable because it thrusts blow after blow with a rusted blunt blade into the lifeless audience it turns us into. We get blood and violence and severed heads, but it loses Jerry. A serial killer who hunts down women is not meant to be admired no matter how much likability Reynolds brings to the man-child murderer. The unwillingness for his character to deal with reality pours over into the film, leaving The Voices as a faintly distinguishable yet unadmirable story which timidly shies away from fully embracing a singular mouthpiece.
“But even though there were bad moments…there are also moments of inspiration and beauty.”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5