Jerry is a nice guy. The nicest guy, in fact. He lives a happy life working in the shipping department of a bathroom fixtures company and longing to get to know Fiona from Accounting a little better, but spending the evenings living above a bowling alley with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers. Who talk to him. And tell him to kill people.
The Voices had me from the poster and the premise. You show me Ryan Reynolds looking into a fridge and seeing Gemma Arterton’s beautiful, grinning, decapitated head sat on a shelf and you’ve got me intrigued. Add to that the notion that Reynolds is playing a guy who thinks his pets are talking to him, and they may be the reason said head has found its way next to the hot sauce and half a tin of cat food, and you’ve got yourself a fan. This is a supremely dark comedy that is right up my alley, but might not be for everyone.
First off, it’s gory as Hell. There’s an accidental murder early on that leads to a body requiring disposal, which is done so via a budget multi-pack of handsaws and a tower of small lunchboxes, each of which is filled with bite-size portions of the unfortunate victim. The weaker of stomach might not appreciate the jiggling leg dangling off the counter as Reynolds’ Jerry is dividing her up, but I was too lost in the comic ludicrousness of the scene to care. Secondly, and you’ll probably have gathered this by now, but it’s all more than a little odd. Having talking pets is one thing, but making Mr. Whiskers be akin to the reincarnation of Satan but with a Scottish brogue and a penchant for shitting on the sofa when he doesn’t get fed on time and you’ve got something altogether unique. I’d always believed all cats are inherently evil, but even I didn’t think they were that bad.
Directed by Marjane Satrapi, of whom the only other work I’m familiar with is the similarly unusual black and white Iranian coming-of-age tale Persepolis, The Voices works for me at least because it’s very, very funny, but in quite a sick way. Mr. Whiskers gets the best lines, but then he’s an evil Scottish cat, so of course he does. He, along with the dependably affectionate Bosco the dog, are both voiced by Reynolds, an actor who I’m pleased to see continues to work despite being regularly written off by box office takings and less-than-complimentary reviews. I’ve been a fan of him since first seeing his impeccable comic timing and deadpan delivery in Van Wilder: Party Liaison, and I’m very much looking forward to him being fully unleashed in the upcoming Deadpool. Reynolds is an underrated performer, and here he showcases a wide range of his abilities, dabbling in his serious side but also letting loose with the comedy when required. Similarly, the likes of Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick and Jacki Weaver offer great support, and all are game for the various directions their roles require.
Speaking of directions, The Voices‘ main hook to keeping me engaged was its unpredictability, barely hinting at the directions it would take. By the third act it was impossible to look away, as I had to find out how this story would end. Jerry is our hero, and he’s for the most part a good guy who has been led astray by not taking his medication and being a victim of his own childhood, but he’s also done some terrible deeds, so I was dreading an unsatisfying ending that would unfairly lean either for or against Jerry in some way. The climax I received was, it must be said, not what was expected, but was thoroughly satisfying, in a perplexing but entertaining way. Anyone who says they knew where it was going is lying, because this comes out of nowhere and is entirely welcome.
If you enjoy black comedy, or just want to see something unlike anything you’ve seen before, then I heartily recommend The Voices. It’s visually vibrant, explores some new ground in dealing with mental illness in a fresh, comedic way, and it features a disembodied head calling someone a “useless wanker.” What more could you want?
Choose Film 8/10