Directed by: Marjane Satrapi
Premise: Ryan Reynolds plays a warehouse worker who suffers from delusions in which he imagines conversations with his pets. He is likable but quirky until his pursuit of his workplace crush leads him to murder.
What Works: The Voices is the tale of a man who believes that he can talk with his dog and cat and after he accidentally kills the woman he’s crushing on he places her decapitated head in his kitchen and carries on conversations with her. That begins to give you an idea of what kind of film this is. The Voices was directed by Marjane Satrapi who had previously written and directed the animated feature Persepolis. Although it is based on an original script by Michael R. Perry, The Voices frequently has the look of a graphic novel. It is highly stylized and makes interesting use of color, which gives the film a surreal tone. That suits the story and The Voices is alternately funny and horrific. The tone shifts radically throughout the picture. Typically that would be to the movie’s detriment but it is handled carefully here so that the picture slides smoothly from one extreme to the next. Among the impressive qualities of The Voices is the way that it is able to be so strange and yet create empathic characters. The lead role is played by Ryan Reynolds and his part in The Voices is the latest example of Reynolds’ evolution as a leading man. Reynolds began his career playing smooth, confident alpha males in movies like Van Wilder and Waiting. But more recently he has been playing against type or taking roles that use his assets in a different way. In The Voices, Reynolds is socially awkward but the actor’s good looks and underlying charm make it believable that people would approach him. His boy-next-door appeal offsets the violence of the film and keeps the character watchable even as he does horrific things. One of the other impressive aspects of The Voices is the way in which the filmmakers subtly shift the perspective and thereby change the tone. When Reynolds’ character is at his most monstrous the filmmakers skillfully shift the perspective and pull the rug out from under the audience. What was playful suddenly becomes quite serious. This will cause attentive viewers to reexamine the way they thought about the earlier moments of the film and perhaps even the way we imagine violence against women in cinema.
What Doesn’t: The story of The Voices suffers from leaps in plausibility and plotting that have nothing to do with the lead character’s mental state. The conceit of the film requires that all of the killer’s coworkers know of his violent and disturbed past except for the women who work in accounting and when those women start disappearing no one asks Reynolds’ character what he’s been up to. It’s also rather strange (and a bit sexist) that everyone who works in the warehouse is male but all the accountants are female. But what’s most likely to make or break the viewer’s reaction to The Voices is its wacky tone. This film isn’t quite a comedy nor is it a horror film in the traditional sense. The way The Voices evades genre pigeonholing is one of its outstanding qualities but the film is also likely to befuddle and alienate some viewers. The film’s radical shifts in tone are done well but the film also intentionally undermines the pleasures people get from either comedy or a horror film. Lots of comedies are violent but the tone with which that violence is presented makes it painless. The violence of The Voices has a visceral cost. In that respect it is more of a horror film than a comedy but the story does not conclude with the catharsis that horror pictures usually provide. Ultimately The Voices has more in common with American Psycho than it does with more mainstream fare.
DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, animatics, and an image gallery.
Bottom Line: The Voices is genuinely weird and those who can appreciate it will find a lot to enjoy about this film. The appeal of The Voices is going to be narrow but it could very easily join movies like Parents and Re-Animator to become a cult favorite.
Episode: #545 (June 7, 2015)