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by Mary Sollosi
January 23, 2014 3:37 AM
12 Comments
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Sundance Review: Ryan Reynolds Makes A Crazy Comeback With Marjane Satrapi's 'The Voices'

"The Voices."

"The Voices," the new horroresque dark comedy from celebrated "Persepolis" director Marjane Satrapi, ought to be a major career moment for star Ryan Reynolds. He plays Jerry Hickfang, an apparently normal man who works in a bathtub factory in a charming little town called Milton. Jerry lives in an apartment over a bowling alley with his cat, Mr. Whiskers, and his dog, Bosco. He’s got a crush on Fiona (Gemma Arterton), the pretty British girl who works in accounting, and he meets regularly with a sweet and understanding therapist (Jacki Weaver). In other words, he seems like an average guy.

The hints that Jerry might be less than normal begin during conversations with his therapist. The signs are in her questions — if he’s been taking his meds, if he’s been crying a lot, and, most notably, if he's been hearing voices. He replies that he hears them when people speak to him, of course, but nothing else. Then he goes home and promptly gets into an argument with Bosco and Mr. Whiskers.

Reynolds deserves recognition for his exceptional performance in this wonderfully bizarre film — especially following such disappointments as 2011’s unsuccessful superhero-franchise attempt "Green Lantern" and last year's disastrous "R.I.P.D." At the very beginning of “The Voices” Reynolds’s nice guy shtick gets a little tiresome, but part of the film’s brilliance is that it’s in no hurry to reveal the depth and history of Jerry’s insanity. Satrapi builds on that slowly, with revelations of increasing magnitude, and the perfection of Reynolds’s performance is made evident as his character’s mind is clarified to the audience. Even more impressive is that he also provided the voice tracks for Bosco and Mr. Whiskers (whose Scottish brogue one would never expect to come out of Reynolds’s frat-boy mouth).

Jerry’s pets serve as the angel (sweet Bosco) and devil (the manipulative Mr. Whiskers) on his shoulders, and while it’s clear to the audience that their dialogue and personalities are really just warring fragments of Jerry’s tortured mind, Jerry’s awareness of this fact is questionable, or maybe he just doesn’t want to believe it. Reynolds’s fantastic performance comes into play again here — even though some part of him knows that Mr. Whiskers is just the feline embodiment of his own worst instincts, we can see him choose to treat the vicious cat as an authority figure outside of his own mind. Equipped with a monster set of mommy issues and demented smile to rival Norman Bates, Jerry gives in to Mr. Whiskers’s psychotic influence, and voilà: a serial killer is born.

Working from a script from Michael R. Perry, Satrapi dances between genres with a wicked sense of humor, toying with familiar imagery and constantly bringing surprises through stark changes in tone and perspective. In one memorable scene, after brutally stabbing a character to death and then being convinced by Mr. Whiskers to cover his tracks, Jerry returns to the scene of the crime. Minutes later, back in his apartment, Jerry butchers the corpse into neatly stacked and color-coordinated Tupperware containers. Her decapitated head is placed in his refrigerator, where — naturally — she begins talking to him, too. 

For these moments alone, Satrapi’s meticulously crafted, genre-bending film is as thrilling and hilarious as it is bizarre. Carried by Reynolds’s tremendous performance, “The Voices” ought to speak to everyone.

Criticwire Grade: A

HOW WILL IT PLAY? Though very wacky and deranged, "The Voices" should manage to land a sizable theatrical release based on its merit and A-list antihero, with Reynolds’ uncharacteristic performance generating a fair amount of buzz. However, it might be too bizarre for a wide release to pan out.


12 Comments

  • joe | March 1, 2014 1:52 PMReply

    Thanks for all the spoilers, idiot

  • basil | January 28, 2014 8:47 PMReply

    Enough of the spoilers for gods sake

    Won't be returning

  • Johnny T | January 23, 2014 11:04 PMReply

    Bullshit. This movie is disturbing, uncomfortable, and one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Matrapi could have made this a suspenseful thriller but chose rather to make light of mental illness and making a serial killer ala Jeffrey Dahmer likeable. Her post screening Q and A bothered many of us in the theatre. I think Ms. Matrapi's definition of entertainment and comedy are obviously skewered. I viewed the second scrrening of this movie at Sundance. There was faint applause after the screening. I found absolutely no redeeming comedic value in this film. This may have a cult following but that's it. Reynolds does an admirable job. The need for this much gore was no necessary. Closed circuit to Ms. Matrapi: You blew it. Fellow veiwers: Do not waste your hard earned money on seeing this crap. Trust me on this one!

  • LOU | January 25, 2014 7:11 AM

    '...making a serial killer à la Jeffrey Dahmer likable'. Um, whenever multiple homicides (performed in the most horrid of ways, with bodies dismembered, etc.) in families occur, neighbours are interviewed and, unfailingly, the reaction is "I was astonished. He was such a good son, a very nice, polite boy". Or, "She seemed such a good, loving mother! It was so shocking to learn that she killed her children in their sleep. Nobody realized that, apparently, she was going through a severe depression after the birth of her third child". So, the film apparently reflects reality to a great degree, apart from the artistic licenses the director chose to take.

  • Heather | January 23, 2014 10:44 AMReply

    Seriously? You had to spoil it. Is anyone even managing this site?

  • mpbstereo | January 23, 2014 7:56 AMReply

    I WAS interested in seeing this, but since the reviewer decided to spoil it, without expressing any justifiable logic for doing so, I'll pass. I may also pass on reading any more reviews on this site. Jeez.

  • Scrib | January 23, 2014 6:50 PM

    Umm. . . Isn't that a severed head in the promo photo?

  • spasssky | January 23, 2014 4:59 AMReply

    Didn't read article... came here to ask if anyone else thinks Greg Crewdson in that promo still at the top of the article...?

  • Choice | January 23, 2014 4:58 AMReply

    Sounds like a great movie that I now don't have to watch because of that bullshit spoiler! Are u serious? Have a think next time.

  • Klaatu | January 23, 2014 4:31 AMReply

    Ah come on now with your spoilers, review don't reveal.

  • Alexa | January 23, 2014 4:13 AMReply

    Gee, was that Fiona spoiler really necessary?

  • Bertram J. Krogh | January 23, 2014 3:47 AMReply

    You had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.