Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review: The Voices

Image courtesy of Lionsgate.
It's been an interesting couple of months for Ryan Reynolds - first, his impressive dramatic turn in Atom Egoyan's unfairly neglected "The Captive" and, now, his disturbing - yet comedic - performance as the warped individual at the center of Marjane Satrapi's "The Voices." It's too bad the latter ends up falling apart after a pretty decent start.

With her latest film, Satrapi ("Persepolis" and "Chicken with Plums") has kept the quirky nature of her previous movies, but branched out a bit to try her hand at genre work, although it's difficult to decide whether "The Voices" should be branded a horror movie or a comedy. It's occasionally funny and has an overall loopy tone, but when it gets serious, the picture is pretty unsettling.

In the film, Reynolds plays Jerry, a likable schlub who works for a loading company. He tries to get himself involved with his office's event planning as a means to impress an attractive woman named Fiona (Gemma Arterton) with whom he works. When he's not at work, he pays visits to his shrink (Jacki Weaver), who warns him not to forget to take his meds.

At first, we wonder exactly what is wrong with Jerry. Some vague references are made to his parents, who are seen in flashbacks. And we get the picture that his mother was some sort of schizophrenic. Perhaps, Jerry has inherited her affliction. We soon realize he has when he starts hearing his pet cat (who speaks in a Scottish brogue) and dog (a laconic Southern drawl) speak to him.

The feline represents Jerry's darker impulses, which eventually turn murderous, whereas the pup is meant to be his conscious. The scenes in which he speaks to the pets are among the funniest in the film, which soon takes a very dark turn following an accident, of sorts, during which Jerry kills someone.

As time passes on, the cat begins telling Jerry that he should kill for pleasure and, soon enough, his refrigerator is stocked with young women's heads, who also occasionally talk to our protagonist. These scenes are played mostly for comedic effect - that is, until Jerry decides to get back on his meds, which makes for some disturbing moments.

The material could have resulted in a better film. "The Voices" starts out well enough, but around the midway point, it loses some steam. The murders and scenes in which Jerry converses with his victim's heads become repetitive and the finale is more of a whimper than a bang.

Satrapi is a talent - for those who haven't seen "Persepolis," I urge you to do so now - and it's nice to see her branch out. But "The Voices" ultimately didn't work for me. Reynolds continues to prove he has some range and the funny bits do their part, at first, while the darker scenes, well, disturb. Yet the film doesn't ultimately add up to much more than the sum of its parts. It's not a bad movie, but one that could have used a little more focus.

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