Quick Hit: What did I just watch??
There is a very select genre of movies that simply make you blink and wonder what you’ve just spent your time watching. Often times, those eventually become cult classics – whether because the material is overly bad, or because it’s offensive, or because the movie is just so out there that you can’t believe it exists. The Voices, which I had never heard of until I found it languishing on one of those internet lists, definitely belongs in the latter two categories.
The main character is Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) as he spends his time working in a bathroom fixture factory in Smalltown, USA. There’s something strange about Jerry, and eventually we find out that he is court ordered to see a psychiatrist, has a hereditary history of mental illness, and oh by the way, his pets talk to him. Bosco, his dog, has a deep Southern drawl and just wants him to do the riht thang Jer. Mr. Whiskers, his cat, has a Scottish Brogue and wants Gerry to let out the animal inside him. Those voices eventually come to a head when an accidental death of a deer leads to the unfortunate death of a coworker, whose head ends up in Jerry’s fridge… and the movie continues, now with a talking head in the fridge.
That’s literally just the first 40 or so minutes of the movie, and it’s a lot to take in, because everything is handled so quickly. The pets, both voiced by Reynolds, have a lot of fun, particularly when they jump back and forth between their animal ways and their more human-like conversational tendencies. There is some pitch black off-beat comedy track that lies here, and Reynolds kills it (pun delightfully unintended), infusing Jerry with a childlike glee at the smallest of victories, like a coworkers compliment, or an extra taco at dinner. This isn’t Reynolds like I can remember seeing him – maybe the closest would be in the fat suit in the beginning of Just Friends. He’s so vulnerable, and it draws some different females to him as well.
The first of those females is Fiona (Gemma Arterton) – who predictably treats Jerry terribly after using him for what she wants at different time points. The real beauty (yes, there’s some beauty in this wacky story) comes from Anna Kendrick as Lisa, a girl who works in Accounting at the factory and has always been attracted to the slightly awkward guy that works in shipping. Their love story is cute, quick, and tragic, but it’s really a love story, and it adds a layer of depth that I never expected.
It’s a shame, therefore, that the end of the movie goes by in such a blink as to be confusing and rushed. There’s no real conclusion for Jerry, almost as if the story got to a point where the Jack was so far out of the box that the writers just shrugged and said, “Forget it – leave it out and just jump on the box”. It’s a shame because Reynolds had set up a really good character only to have a forgettable ending.
My favorite part of the film, outside of Reynold’s performance, is the fact that Jerry lives in a non-medicated world of slight fantasy. Everything has a shiny gleam to it, and of course, his pets and the dismembered heads of his victims talk. When he experiments by taking his prescribed medication even once, he wakes up to a world that is dingy, greyish/brown, and disgustingly filled with a rotting head. It’s an amazing juxtaposition, and it truly illustrates how much the coloration and lighting can change your perspective on a story.
Does The Voices handle mental illness well? No, but how many horror films really have handled it well? There’s a bit of a carte blanche with many horror films – not that it’s deserving, as something like Hereditary showed, you can be respectful and still tell a terrifying story – but it’s a genre cliché nonetheless. But The Voices shouldn’t be taken as a portrait of mental illness, but rather as a black comedy with moments of horror, romance, and outright comedy led by a professional. I’m going to give it a “B”, mainly due to the flawed ending.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"