the voices | marjane satrapi | michael r. perry | ryan reynolds | gemma arterton | anna kendrick | mental illness | comedy | crime | thriller | united states | germany | jacki weaver | ella smith | paul chahidi | stanley townsend | adi shankar | sam spruell | slasher
Film: The Voices
Director: Marjane Satrapi
Writer: Michael R. Perry
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick
This was a film that I remember when it was coming out, but then it kind of just disappeared. When I got into listening to horror movie podcasts, this one would pop up periodically and I added it to my list of films to check out. I finally did when for my podcast, I decided for the month of February to do two episodes that featured a woman director. The synopsis is a likable guy pursues his office crush with the help of his evil talking pets, but things turn sinister when she stands him up for a date.
Now this synopsis was a bit misleading. We are in the town of Milton, which is quite odd if I’m going to be honest as our introduction to it is somewhat surreal. There is music accompanying it, the town isn’t very big and it is based around this factory that does bathroom fixtures. Working there is Jerry (Ryan Reynolds). He’s called over by his boss, Dennis Kowalski (Paul Chadhidi), and invited to help plan their company barbeque. Through their conversation, we learn that Jerry has a court appointed psychologist.
Jerry goes home to his pets, Mr. Whiskers the cat and Bosco the dog. The problem is that they’re talking to him. Mr. Whiskers has a Scottish accent and both are actually done by Reynolds. He tells them about being picked for helping plan this where Bosco is happy, much like any dog would be, and Mr. Whiskers thinks it is stupid.
Also on this committee is Fiona (Gemma Arterton) who Jerry has a crush on, along with John (Adi Shankar), Dave (Sam Spruell) and Sheryl (Alessa Kordeck). Fiona comes back to the meeting while Jerry is cleaning up to ask a question about the equipment and Jerry thinks he hears her say that she can come up to her department any time. The picnic is fun and Jerry comes up later to ask Fiona out. Lisa (Anna Kendrick) has a crush on him and asks him to join them for a drink. She wants him to take her home after, but instead he ends up driving Fiona home. He asks her out again on this drive and she reluctantly agrees. She ends up blowing him off though.
Her car won’t start and it is raining out. By happenstance, Jerry is passing by when Fiona needs help. She tries to make it up, but they end up hitting a deer and he kills it to put it out of his misery. This scares Fiona who flees into the woods. He runs after her and accidentally kills her. When he goes home, Mr. Whiskers tells him what he has to do so he doesn’t get into trouble. His therapist Dr. Warren (Jacki Weaver) tries to help and get him to take his medication, but he has to face reality if he does that and his reality is much worse than he realizes.
If you’ve listened to me before, you’d know that when it comes to horror/comedies I can be quite leery of them. This one actually really works for me. I like how we build the mystery and story of what is going on here. We get subtly introduced that Jerry has mental issues. He isn’t very stable and despite how normal he looks, he has issues fitting in. I think that Reynolds ability at comedy plays on that pretty well here.
To delve more into this character, we learn through flashbacks and things that he says, his mother was from Germany and she was given an ultimatum by his father to stay there or come with him. This caused her to breakdown mentally to where she self-harmed himself and forced a young Jerry to do something traumatic. Now that he’s out of the hospital and trying to live a normal life, there’s an interesting commentary on medication and something that seems quite real why some people don’t take it. He doesn’t feel like himself, he never really had any friends so by taking his medication he would lose the voices he’s projecting that are his animals. It is kind of heartbreaking to be honest.
I also feel bad for him in that being that he’s socially awkward, he doesn’t realize that Fiona isn’t really interested in him or that Lisa is really interested in him. It does take some time to come to terms with the latter, in that Lisa is better for him and it really builds to what happens in the end even more to make it such a stronger fall from grace and much more impactful. There’s also an interesting commentary about religion here, being that this is in the town of Milton, Jerry calls Fiona an angel at one point and we see her that. Plus he’s asking about the angels from the bible who all have names and there’s a hint to the end of the joke through the name of the town and their most famous work.
It seems like next I should shift over to talking about the acting. If you couldn’t tell, I think that the acting for this is pretty strong. I thought Reynolds does a great job at being this awkward guy who is good looking, but is so messed up from his past. This makes an intriguing look at nature vs. nurture. There’s a history of mental illness here so he definitely has the genetics not being in his favor. Going even farther though, there’s a traumatic event that happens to him that sends him over the edge. I’m so glad the choice was made to have him doing all of the voices, as he realizes they’re all from his head so it should be a variation of his voice. The Scottish one though had me losing it as I’m a big fan of Mr. Whiskers. I thought that Arterton was solid as the English lady he’s in love with, but she’s low key mean to him. He doesn’t realize though which makes it worse. I found Kendrick to be adorable and she is such a good character here. It really helps to build the impact of it as well. I also thought that Weaver, Ella Smith, Chadhidi and the rest did well for what was needed.
That will take me to the pacing, which I thought was fine. You don’t see a lot of horror comedies that run as long as this one does. This comes in at 103 minutes, but it really didn’t feel like it. There was a point where something happened that I wasn’t sure how they were going to continue and I actually liked where it went. I do think it could have been trimmed a bit. I’m not taking any points off though as I never was bored and I liked where it ended up. The ending credit sequence was quite odd and actually made me happy in an odd way if you really think about it.
Moving to the effects of this movie, I thought they were well done. The blood looked real as well as the bit of gore that we get. There are actually a lot of subtle things that are done though as well. The way that Jerry sees his life is different when he’s on and off his medications. I like getting these glimpses as it makes this so much better overall for me. There is a bit of CGI when it comes to making the animals talk. I don’t hate it as it worked and since this from the mind of a sick man, I’m more forgiving. I would say that the cinematography was solid as well.
Now with that said, I ended up really digging this movie. For being a horror comedy, it really explores things much deeper than I was expecting. The depth of Jerry was quite interesting to me while looking at his mental illness. Him wanting to fit in and just find his place is sad with how things that turn out. The acting really brought this to life. It does run a bit long, but I was there for the ride for sure. The effects were really good across the board, going more practical than CGI, but I didn’t have an issue with either. I thought this was shot well overall and the soundtrack wasn’t my favorite. It fit the tone for the movie though. My rating here would be that this was a good movie for sure and would recommend giving this a viewing.
My Rating: 8 out of 10