Before Ryan Reynolds slips back into the Marvel Universe as the Merc with a Mouth in ‘Deadpool,’ he takes on a whole different sort of killer in ‘The Voices.’ From ‘Persepolis’ and ‘Chicken With Plums’ director Marjane Satrapi, this Sundance Film Festival darling follows a bathtub factory worker from a small town named Jerry that speaks to his pets, who happen to speak to him right back. But when the companionship of his evil talking cat or his benevolent talking dog isn’t enough, he pursues his office crush. All goes well until things take a murderous turn and Jerry finds himself struggling over whether he’s actually a good person or a bad one.
When I first saw the trailer for this film, I thought that we’d be getting a quirky dark comedy. I mean, when you hear that Ryan Reynolds’ pets tell him to kill people, it definitely sounds weird, but it could be fun too. Well, ‘The Voices’ started out that way. As we got to know Jerry and his eccentricities, the tone reminded me of ‘Idle Hands’ meets ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ meets ‘Eerie, Indiana’ (which is fitting because the screenwriter worked on that show). However, this soon took a really dramatic turn that saw our likable schizophrenic that talks to his pets into a manic, mentally unstable serial killer in a very dark horror comedy. In many cases, some would find such a change to be jarring, but it works so well in this film.
I’d say that the genre-juggling succeeds largely in part to Satrapi. The filmmaker’s background as graphic novelist and illustrator really shines through in her use of color throughout the movie, which really helps to convey the mood of most scenes. From the bright pink of Jerry’s uniform to the angel white and red lipstick worn by Gemma Arterton’s Fiona to the vibrant costumes in the movie’s ending, the color palette really adds a whole other layer to what we’re seeing. On the other side of the coin, it does the same thing when Jerry isn’t on his meds or another person sees the chaos that he has caused. In those instances, there are a lot of dingy, grotesque grays that haunt his apartment. No matter what the mood is onscreen, the director matches it and elevates the feeling of the scene.
But as much credit as the director deserves for the success of this film, star Ryan Reynolds really shines in this rather unorthodox role. I’ll even go so far as to say that in the same way that Jimmy Stewart’s credibility was elevated for doing ‘Vertigo,’ ‘The Voices’ elevate Ryan Reynolds, especially after he had a run of less than stellar features like ‘Green Lantern,’ ‘The Change-Up,’ and ‘R.I.P.D..’ He really got to show a new side of himself by keeping the charming sarcasm at bay and replacing it with confliction and awkwardness while staying likable in order to play Jerry. At the same time, Reynolds did completely different things for Mr. Whiskers and Bosco. The amount of range that he exhibited in this performance is simply unparalleled by anything we’ve seen him do before.
Honestly, the weirdest thing about ‘The Voices’ to me was the somewhat high note that the film ended on. Other than that, I don’t have much criticism. I really enjoyed the performances from Reynolds, Arterton, and Anna Kendrick. The special effects and make up were on point, especially when it came to the severed heads and the talking animals. It’s very early in the year, but I might have to say that this is my favorite 2015 release so far. If it’s not playing at a theater near you, definitely catch it on VOD for one of the most hilarious and simultaneously horrifying films in a long while.