On the Silver Screen – The Voices
Marjane Satrapi’s The Voices casts Ryan Reynolds as a mentally disturbed factory worker who takes things a little too far and causes the death of women that he works with.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Ryan Reynolds in anything but I’ve always found him to be a really engaging leading man who seems to accept some really challenging roles. Given that he could easily coast by on his looks it’s encouraging to see him try some really bizarre stuff.
I think The Voices is his most bizarre film yet -of those I’ve seen anyway- and Reynolds does a fantastic job portraying the troubled Jerry. There’s something constantly unsettling about his performance as he awkwardly lives his life in a sort of naive haze. He’s constantly polite to those around him in a way that doesn’t seem quite normal and definitely appears to be on a completely different wavelength to everyone around him.
Despite the awful things he does throughout the film he never comes across as a bad guy and I actually found myself rooting for him to rise above what he has done and better himself. It’s hard not to like him and Reynolds genuine “nice guy” performance goes a long way towards making him someone worth investing in.
Jerry is a very troubled individual as revealed through glimpses of his back story. When he is off his medication his living environment is well lit and feels warm and homely. He has a cat named Mr Whiskers and a dog named Bosco who talk to him when he’s unmedicated. The cat represents the darker side of his psyche constantly belittling him and ordering him to do terrible things where the dog encourages him to be a good person. It’s a fairly standard angel/devil on the shoulder dynamic but it works really well here. Reynolds provides the voices of the two animals and does a really great job with them. Both voices have a lot of personality and the cat gets a lot of hilarious lines. It’s completely off the wall and works really well.
Outside of his pets Jerry has a crush on an attractive woman at his work named Fiona (Gemma Arterton) who doesn’t feel comfortable around him. Things take a seriously dark turn when she stands him up for a date and events eventually lead to him accidentally killing her. Instead of turning himself in and admitting to the authorities that it was an accident he disposes of the body in a really gruesome way and keeps the severed head in his fridge. This gives him another voice to interact with and only adds to his mental problems. There’s not much to Fiona before or after she is killed but I think she’s only supposed to represent something that he wants and can’t have. Arterton does a good job with the material she has and creates a character who feels real enough.
Lisa (Anna Kendrick) is another girl he works with who has a crush on him and does her best to get close to him. You can probably imagine how that turns out. Her character didn’t really work for me in a lot of ways as she seems so insanely stupid. She has plenty of opportunity to be creeped out by Jerry’s behaviour but she just seems to shrug it off and dismiss it weirdly. Kendrick does have an impressive awkward chemistry with Reynolds that makes their scenes together really amusing to watch.
One of the more fleshed out relationships in the film is Jerry’s relationship with his therapist Dr. Warren (Jacki Weaver). She seems to be genuinely concerned about him and wants him to get better. She realises that he is very ill and not actually a bad guy. Jerry is somewhat hostile towards her but sort of sees her as someone that tethers him to reality. He lies to her when she asks him if he hears voices but also seems to want her to help him. It’s a complex relationship that is explored really well and represents the only developed real connection Jerry has in his life.
I didn’t really find much of the film all that funny but I could see where the oddball humour was supposed to kick in. There was a certain comedic edge to many of the dark scenes. The whole film is supposed to be taken as somewhat tongue in cheek but it wasn’t quite to my taste. It’s not that anything was bad but it just didn’t make me laugh. There were some sequences that made me chuckle but they were few and far between.
Visually the film has some interesting elements. Most of it is from Jerry’s skewed perspective so much of what we see is well lit and looks pleasant and inviting. It’s when we get a look into the other perspectives that the truth is shown. Seeing Jerry’s apartment through his unmedicated eyes or from the point of view of someone else is a sight to behold. It’s a vast difference from how he views his life and effectively represents his delusional outlook on the world.
A really interesting exploration of a sick man who has a very diseased mind and a skewed perspective on reality.
Ryan Reynolds does a really fantastic job in the role of Jerry. He manages to be constantly unsettling while being likeable at the same time. He walks the fine line really well and manages to keep the audience rooting for him through the terrible things he does.
Reynolds also does a great job voicing the dog and cat representing the good and evil sides of Jerry’s psyche. The two animals are given really distinctive voices and their roles are very clearly defined in the many conversations he has with them.
The supporting cast are also very strong with small roles for Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick that serve a really important purpose in the film. Both actresses do really well with the small amounts of screen time they have. Their characters exist as a means to an end for Jerry and the script cleverly makes sure that they fulfill that purpose.
Jacki Weaver’s Dr. Warren has the most developed relationship with Jerry in the film. She realises that he’s ill not evil and does all she can to try to help him. Jerry is resistant to her attempts because he fears what might happen and doesn’t like being on his medication. It’s a really complex relationship and it’s handled very well.
There are some really disturbing moments in the film but they are treated with a very tongue in cheek attitude. I could see where the jokes were supposed to be but the style of humour wasn’t to my taste. I’m sure it’ll work for some people but not for me. Everything was good as presented so I can’t fault the writing here.
Visually the film manages to do some really interesting things. Seeing the world from Jerry’s perspective gives us a really simplistic and pleasant view of life but once the perspective shifts it’s far different and a lot more disturbing to look at. It nicely sums up how deluded Jerry really is.