DIR: Marjane Satrapi • WRI: Michael R. Perry • PRO: Roy Lee, Matthew Rhodes, Adi Shankar, Spencer Silna • DOP: Maxime Alexandre • ED: Stéphane Roche • MUS: Olivier Bernet • DES: Udo Kramer • CAST: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick
Humble reader, I come before you a conflicted man. There’s a lot to be said and to discuss about this movie and while I want to do that, that task will be near impossible without giving away some of the surprises the film has to offer. So the short version of the review is: go see it, go see it right now. I’m not going to go into specific plot spoilers but even talking broadly about what this film is referencing and the subjects it’s dealing with, will in its own way give away more than I sense the film wants you to know going in. If you enjoy pitch black comedies with incredible casts, that skirt the line of bad taste and occasionally trip over it and then repeatedly stab that line in self-disgust, this is the film for you.
Seemingly normal factory worker but secret crazy-person, Jerry (Reynolds) lives in a small, depressing town; spending his days shipping bathtubs before returning to his lonely apartment above a disused bowling alley. His only company being his dog, Bosco and cat, Mr Whiskers. Both of whom talk to him. Because you see, Jerry was only recently released from an asylum and has stopped taking his meds. When he’s tasked with helping organise an office party, he begins to fall for Fiona (Arterton) while attracting the attentions of Lisa (Kendrick). Drinks are had, dates are attempted, well-meaning intentions lead to… blood. Oh, so much blood.
This is one of those great movies that is clearly reminiscent of/influenced by/similar to numerous other films and yet still manages to stand out boldly on its own terms and contribute meaningfully to the genre(s) it inhabits. What starts off feeling like Ted, but funnier, sadder and with real mental health issues at its centre (and Reynolds at his most Walbergian) suddenly and violently detours into Tucker and Dale vs. Evil territory before subtly revealing its true form as a sort of Killer Joe as written and directed by Wes Anderson. And an ending which (don’t worry, I wouldn’t ruin for anyone) feels almost like an homage to the 1967 Casino Royale. There’s a lot going on, basically.
Even the genre feels difficult to pin down. Black comedy seems the most appropriate but then at times it goes so far and delves into such bleak, dark material that it becomes genuinely dramatically gripping and so emotionally raw that you have to wonder if the comedy is only a thin veneer with which to explore this subject-matter in a way that doesn’t alienate everyone. At its core, this is a character study of a serial killer but rather than going the muted, serious route of something like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, this forges ahead in the polar opposite direction. Satrapi’s familiar, stylised hyper-reality is here used as a wonderful piece of misdirection. The sickly, artificial, almost confection-like mise-en-scene (complete with a truly icky, squelchy sound design) means that when the audience, and Jerry, finally see ‘reality’, it hits like a punch to the stomach and you completely begin to question the ‘comedy’ portion of this black comedy.
The truly chilling thing about this film is that despite being really funny, this is potentially the most believable version of a serial killer and how/why they do what they do, to be put on screen in a while. Sure, it’s not ‘realistic’ and it can be highly abstract but making the logic of such a warped and psychologically damaged mind’s version of reality seem coherent, if not outright relatable, is a damn impressive feat. And there, equal credit is due to both Perry’s script and Satrapi’s direction with a healthy dose of praise to Reynolds’ performance and its impressive range. I won’t even touch the ending but it’s both weirdly perfect and utterly head-scratching in its oddness.
I honestly don’t know how a film like this gets made. If this were a small, independent film, in a foreign language and with a cast of nobodies then maybe. But with this cast, the overall level of talent on the production side and what appears to be a not insubstantial amount of money behind it; making a film as strange and potentially niche as this? Make no mistake, there will be people who are going to violently, passionately hate this movie. But I am not one of them.
16 (See IFCO for details)
The Voices is released 20th March 2015