Despite having all the makings of a classical leading man, Ryan Reynolds just cannot seem to find his place in mainstream Hollywood. Especially after the failure of Green Lantern, there seems to be this odd stigma against him that prevents people from even looking forward to his movies, let alone seeing them. The good news is that he seems to have been absorbing that feedback, heading back into the smaller films that impressed people enough to get him blockbuster parts in the first place, and if there’s anything The Voices proves almost right off the bat, this is undoubtably most at home.
Working in a cheerful little factory in a sleepy small town, Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) is a socially awkward but cheerful man doing his best to fit in. Generally people seem to like him, but Fiona (Gemma Arterton), the woman he’s interested in, senses something a little off about him and is reluctant to pursue him back. Little does she know how off he truly is though, as every night Jerry goes home and begins chatting it up with his docile if dim witted dog Bosco, and his sociopathic cat Mr. Whiskers (both voiced by Reynolds) who debate with him about his innermost desires for sex, power, and perhaps above all, murder.
There are a whole lot of things firing on all cylinders in this crazy little film, but what holds it all together is Reynolds, who turns in what might be the best performance of his career here as Jerry. Shedding the typical wry smart-ass routine he’s made audiences used to over the year, he creates an awkwardness in Jerry that manages to jump from sweet to terrifying with an instants notice. No matter what he’s doing, he’s doing it because he feels like he has to suit his sick fantasies of a perfect world, which becomes quite the predicament when he starts stabbing people to death while profusely apologizing. His voice work is also spot on. Mr Whiskers and Bosco both feel different enough from Jerry to come across as separate characters, while still remaining similar enough to make it continuously clear that they are pieces of his subconscious. It also just so happens that this is a perfect practice run before the takes on the equally deluded Deadpool next year, showing definitively that he has both the timing and the chops to make that character work.
Meanwhile, the supporting cast which includes Arterton, along with Anna Kendrick and Jacki Weaver definitely takes a backseat here for the most part, but each wring everything they can out of their roles. Arterton in particular goes into some very interesting directions as she becomes more a part of Jerry (in a way I really don’t want to spoil) that let her show off some nice comedic chops. Kendrick is handed a bit of a dull, silly character, but she gives it a sweetness that it would not have had otherwise, while Weaver sobers up the proceedings as Jerry’s therapist.
The direction here by Marjane Strapi is nothing short of spectacular. By allowing us to both live in the world the way that Jerry sees it when he’s alone, and then breaking away from that delusion when other people enter the fray, she creates a delicate type-rope of degraded comedy as well as genuine emotion. It both perfectly portrays the affliction of schizophrenia, while also poking just enough fun at it to still make things enjoyable. In fact, there really is only one false note struck here at the very end. The horror elements also really work here, with extremely graphic violence at just the right time to allow us to see just how much pain Jerry’s insanity causes. She brings the story to it’s absolutely perfect resolution, and then takes things one step further into absurdity that undercuts things a bit, and even with that being the case, it’s still funny as hell to watch unfold.
A look into the world of mental illness that is both funny and frightening, The Voices is one of the most original movies to come around in ages. It does everything it sets out to do, while proving that Ryan Reynolds is far from an exhausted talent to say the least. It’s not playing in very many theaters at all, but is available on VOD and is well worth the money, as long as you’re willing to gasp in disbelief…a lot.