THE VOICES [2014]

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Directed by Marjane Satrapi, Written by Michael R. Perry

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver

Ryan Reynolds is amazing in this parody of mental illness with a dark, pitch black sense of humour. But is this a parody? It is hard to figure out what this is exactly to be honest, it is one of those films that truly defies any sort of pigeonholing, as it jumps from genre to genre to sub-genre effortlessly. Some scenes are funny (“Take the meds you WANKER!”), some scenes are wrong yet they are still funny, while other scenes are quite sad. The juxtaposition here between the black comedy and the sad, intense scenes that are often flashbacks to childhood maximises the impact of both perspectives, and it works well if you are enjoying the comedy or the psychological drama taking place. Every person will see this movie differently, perhaps being mentally ill myself makes a movie like this easier to laugh at. There is also some great commentary on mental illness medication regimes to round things off. This seems like a love or hate film from what I have read, and to me, if you aren’t smiling after the first incident, then none of this film will do much for you unless you are enjoying the drama unfolding, which is handled well and written better than many dramas that have nothing like the comic perspective this film has.

If you stop to think about it for a second, the basic premise of the film could have been properly ruined. Who would have thought that a screenplay penned by one of the Paranormal franchise (Paranormal Activity 2 to be precise) could be turned into such a fantastic film that so successfully splices genres? A talking cat, a talking dog, hell it almost sounds like a family movie of some sort. A rather dark, demented family film, as it doesn’t take very long to realise something isn’t right here. The more you watch the more you realise how truly unstable Jerry (Reynolds) is, despite his friendly demeanour. When we first see the reality of the state of his apartment through his medicated eyes, medication he didn’t want, it is a sad sight as his dwelling looks like someone who hordes rubbish. But the mess in his house is a little different. I won’t give anything away as this film is such a ride and it is filled with fun twists and surprises that don’t end until the credits roll, which are also amusing themselves in a very odd way. This film has a very strange and twisted sense of humour, much like myself, and that is the key. The average score on imdb (for whatever that score is worth) would seem to indicate that the film has received a mixed reaction, which isn’t unexpected as this film is one of a kind. It is easily the bizzare and unique horror comedy that I have ever seen. Much like Dead Snow 2, it doesn’t take itself seriously at all and revels in its own silliness like a pig rolling around in a fresh pile of shit. If you don’t laugh at least a few times during the 100 or so minute runtime, you better see a doctor and get that sense of humour checked, as this is funny, endlessly so. This is almost solely due to the pitch-black script, done by Ryan Reynold’s with deadpan delivery. He is funny either as himself or as Mr Whiskers, his cat, who is one of the funniest film creations I have ever seen.

vWe start off not too bad, Jerry seems content wearing pink overalls for the meaningless job he works. But poor Jerry isn’t doing well when it comes to talking to those of the female persuasion who work with him. While working this meaningless job, it is interesting as you soon realise that we can never really know what is reality and what isn’t. The constant theme though is his extreme difficulty when talking to those of the opposite sex, which unlike most romcoms, is actually quite amusing here. Dragged into it by another worker, a workmate finally agrees to go on a date with Jerry, only to promptly stand him up to sing karaoke with her friends. God, don’t people like that deserve a slap? To say that Jerry does not take this well would be an extremely understated way to put it. First he is confused, why did she stand him up? His rose-tainted glasses are obviously quite strong, and his reaction to this is not only excessive but excessively funny. I don’t want to spoil anything more as I saw this film knowing nothing about it, but to say that the atmosphere increases after the scenes that follow is a second massive understatement. The film suddenly shifts up, skipping a gear or two, and explodes into what I can best describe as black, intense comedy/psychological thriller.

After missing his date, he goes home, arranges his house just so, and begins to talk to his cat and dog, who play the angel and devil on the shoulder schtick really well. Even more impressive is the fact that Reynolds voiced all the animals himself, and they all sound varied and fantastic. Some voice-work is surely coming his way in the near future. Reynolds in general is better than I expected. Safe House was good, The Captive was ok but he was great as the father, but now we have this. His performance is straight-faced and unsettling; he seems calm but at the same time on the very edge of sanity, looking down over the cliff-face. Considering the schlock he used to play, this upgrade is really something to behold. It was also nice to see Aussie veteran Jackie Weaver as Jerry’s shrink, whose minor role plays into Jerry’s fantasy and therefore a lot of the humour that comes with it.

the-voies-movieDirected by a female French-Iranian director, I am now keen to rifle through anything else she has done, as I wasn’t disappointed for a second. Upon trying to show this to friends, one commented that the humour was a bit too dark for him, and it certainly takes a certain sense of humour to relate with this movie on a comic level. Personally I think the humour was filled with variety and it was funny as all hell, so many scenes and lines sounding so very wrong, yet so funny. It is an assault, the film is constantly making you laugh in different ways, but it doesn’t come off as trying too hard at all. The best way to describe it is intense black comedy. Fight Club is a film whose humour I can come close to comparing this too, as that also had a dramatic thriller plot while being darkly hilarious, though its story and character arcs definitely supersede this. That is the one criticism I could throw at this film, that the narrative isn’t really present. If I’m honest though, I was laughing too hard to notice.

4.5/5 – Technically this was solid but nothing to really talk about. The soundtrack is also lacking, ignoring the flashbacks to childhood which adds another layer of intensity to the film that unfortunately isn’t consistent. But for most of the film, the wild story and the constant humour-assault again make this a non-factor for me, as once I got into this film and began to laugh, I couldn’t stop. It was like I was at the movies, I needed to pee but didn’t get up! It is not only funny but the end is somewhat tense too. This flick is a true genre-blender then, an acquired taste perhaps, but no doubt one extremely unusual and funny film.