Directed by: Marjane Satrapi.
Written by: Michael R. Perry.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds (Jerry/Mr. Whiskers/ Bosco/ Deer/Bunny Monkey), Gemma Arterton (Fiona), Anna Kendrick (Lisa), Jacki Weaver (Dr. Warren), Ella Smith (Alison), Paul Chahidi (Dennis Kowalski), Stanley Townsend (Sheriff Weinbacher), Adi Shankar (John), Sam Spruell (Dave).
Jerry is one of those anonymous nice guys we all know from the office – but no one really knows who they are. He seems cheerful and friendly – the type of guy who doesn’t complain about the smocks he has to wear in the warehouse is bright pink, who whistles a happy tune during the day, and still sees it as an honor to be picked for a party planning committee – that meets after business hours, and is unpaid. At that party, he throws himself into the dance with abandon. And yet, there is something off about Jerry. No one can quite put their finger on it, but you see it on their faces when they walk away from Jerry – a look of slight befuddlement, before they move on with their day and never give Jerry another thought – that is, until the next time they see him.
Jerry is played by Ryan Reynolds in The Voices – the new film by Marjane Satrapi, who lets the audience know what is wrong with Jerry fairly early in the proceedings. Jerry is mentally ill – and severely, although he can hide it pretty well, and emulate normalcy almost precisely – but it’s the almost that leads to that befuddlement. We will eventually flash back and find out more about Jerry’s past – unnecessarily to me, but whatever – but we know it’s pretty bad early. It’s never a good sign when the Sheriff knows your name, and asks “How you’re doing?” with concern every time he sees you. And his doctor (Jacki Weaver) is very concerned that Jerry should doesn’t appear to be taking his drugs. Oh, and Jerry’s dog, Bosco, and cat, Mr. Whiskers, talk to him – Bosco, the little cartoon angel assuring Jerry that he is in fact a nice guy, and Mr. Whiskers, the cartoon devil, wanting Jerry to burn it all to the ground. If Jerry had listened to Bosco, a lot more people would be alive at the end of the movie – but not much would really happen.
Jerry does, in fact, become a serial killer in The Voices – but an odd one. His first victim is the self-described “office hottie”, Fiona (Gemma Arterton), who Jerry takes a liking to – and even asks her out. She blows off their date for a night of drunken karaoke – and as she’s walking home alone, Jerry comes across her with his car, and offers a ride home. A series of events happen, she winds up dead, and listening to Mr. Whiskers, Jerry decides to cut up her body, and keep her head in the fridge. The head, by the way, keeps talking to Jerry. She’s lonely – she wants a friend. Perhaps that shy girl from the office – Lisa (Anna Kendrick), who takes a liking to Jerry.
The Voices does get fairly grisly at times – there are multiple murders and dismemberments in the film, but they’re not quite as harsh as that sounds. It’s impossible to know just what really happened, as the movie locks into Jerry’s point-of-view early, and never leaves it. To him, all these deaths are merely accidents. He didn’t kill them. He’s a nice guy – even Bosco thinks so. But we are trapped in Jerry’s ill mind. There is a telling sequence mid-way through the film where Jerry takes his doctor’s advice, and actually takes his pills – and he wakes up to see the reality of everything he has done, and doesn’t much like it – so off the meds he goes again.
Reynolds is excellent here – it may just be his finest work to date. Perhaps the best thing that could have happened to Reynolds as an actor is that his movie star career kind of stalled a little while ago – when his DC movie, Green Lantern, bombed, and his Marvel movie, Deadpool, got delayed (that one is at least back on). It’s forced Reynolds to take some roles in smaller movies like this, and Atom Egoyan’s The Captive – which wasn’t a good movie, but in which Reynolds is actually quite good. Reynolds has movie star good looks and charm – but he’s capable of dimming that a little bit to play a guy like Jerry. Outwardly, Jerry is nice – but there is something not quite right, which is why most people steer clear. All Jerry really wants is to belong – to have some sort of connection with someone else, and since he cannot have that, because of his illness, he makes them up in his head.
The Voices is not a great movie. The tonal shifts between comedy, drama and grisly murder are a little much to take at times, the characters other than Jerry feel underwritten (although Arterton and especially Kendrick make them more than what they appear to have been on the page) and once director Satrapi and writer Michael R. Perry set everything up, they really have nowhere to go with the premise – no way to end it in a way that would truly satisfying. They come close enough though.