Director: Marjane Satrapi
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver
RunTime: 1 hr 44 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Some Gory Scenes)
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Opening Day: 12 February 2015
Synopsis: Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) is that chipper guy clocking the nine-to-five at a bathtub factory, with the offbeat charm of anyone who could use a few friends. With the help of his court-appointed psychiatrist, he pursues his office crush (Gemma Arterton). However, the relationship takes a sudden, murderous turn after she stands him up for a date. Guided by his evil talking cat and benevolent talking dog, Jerry must decide whether to keep striving for normalcy, or indulge in a much more sinister path.
Some films make you go “What did I just watch?” Most recently, ‘Into The Woods’ comes to mind. But when a film makes a conscious effort to do that, it requires a certain sincerity to steer the movie clear of being shocking for the sake of it. While some mainstream films accidentally fall into the “weird” category, others that try to do so actually become more serious than it hoped to. This may boil down to an over-eagerness to tackle too many tones at once, but at least ‘The Voices”never reeks of desperation. The movie actually achieves one of its layers pretty well, a poignant commentary on schizophrenia, even if it aimed to be a cult-classic.
Premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, ‘The Voices’is a light-hearted, well for the most part at least, horror-comedy revolving around Jerry played by Ryan Reynolds. Initially, Jerry may seem like a socially-awkward but sweet man working as a packer at a bathtub factory. His offbeat charm even catches the eye of Lisa from accounting (Anna Kendrick), despite liking colleague Fiona (Gemma Arterton) instead. However, Jerry also has a history of being mentally-unstable, turning him into a murderous killer that has a false sense of reality. He talks back to his pets, which in turn talks back to him. When Jerry goes crazy, all hell breaks loose.
Directed by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), “The Voices”is an often-funny film that provides a unique but revealing diagnosis into the mind of a mentally-deranged. The dialogue by Michael Perry is extremely well-written and nuanced, and if you find yourself smiling from the start, this is definitely your movie. The humour is sarcastic but its source is from Jerry’s innocence. You never know if he is actually a good guy and the contrast between his bright and dark sides is the spine of the movie. While it veers dangerously close to actually having nothing much else of say, the movie is paced so quickly which saves it from being repetitive, to the credit of its director.
This is the best Ryan Reynolds performance I’ve seen. While that’s not saying much, Reynolds has to juggle a mixture of sweetness and derange, not an easy task even by acting veterans. His work here is surprisingly layered with so much depth and he manages to create a well-rounded character we can easily root for despite his flaws. Reynolds even voices his cat and dog, a clever move which is instrumental to the message of the film. There was a danger that Jerry would become too cartoonish but Reynolds portrays a relatable character here. This is evident in his quieter scenes, such as those in a Chinese restaurant or with Anna Kendrick. Kendrick always gives off a down-to-earth feel and her chemistry with Reynolds is electrifying.
On the other hand, some parts of the movie does not blend well together. The sudden mood swings of Jerry may be used to symbolise the mindset of a mentally-ill, but those tonal changes feel uncomfortably jarring, especially given its initial light-hearted mood. However, when these scenes are considered separately, they offer a sensitive portrayal of the struggles that a schizophrenic patient faces and never looks down on them. A scene involving Jerry and his mom would seem ridiculous in a poorly-made movie, but is actually hugely touching here. The ending also does well in tying up the film, sharing the same loopy tone as its beginning but offering great insight into the struggles of its main character.
Will this film be a future cult-classic? Only time will tell. But as what it is, this is an interesting look into one of the most interesting on-screen characters this year. I found it an easy-watch, surprisingly, and simply hilarious. This is hardly the type of film its two leads are known for, but I’m glad they signed up because the movie would not have been as effective without their easy-going charm. Who knows, maybe it was Jerry’s cat that convinced them.
(Helped by its two stars and a great script, “The Voices” has a heartwarming core inside its silly premise, just like its main character)
Review by Brandon Chua