By Callum Willmott
There’s something almost Norman Bates-like about Jerry Hickfang (Ryan Reynolds) in this darkly comedic film. As a character who hears disembodied voices (or, more accurately, voices that come from his two pets) and kills out of mental instability, it’s perhaps easy to see where the similarities come from. Despite this, there is more to be said about Marjane Satrapi’s fourth feature movie. Far from being overtly psychopathic, Jerry is an upbeat, somewhat naive figure; a man whose day to day hallucinations influence his twisted actions.
Of course, any film that looks at the deluded perspective of a serial killer is bound to uphold some of these ideas. But even so, watching The Voices, it’s hard not to feel a degree of sympathy for its protagonist. Like the unhinged Bates, Jerry himself is portrayed with a certain innocence – one that goes completely against his murderous impulses. It helps too that Reynolds’ casting seems to go hand in hand with that of Anthony Perkins’. Both are young, boyish looking; in short, it’s hard to imagine either committing an act of gruesome violence, if not for their films.
Adapted from Michael R. Perry’s quirky script, The Voices‘ plot, then, should come as no surprise for viewers. After attempting to leave behind his troubled past, the optimistic Jerry works at a local bathtub factory, between which he visits his court appointed therapist (Jacki Weaver) and helps plan the company picnic. If it seems like things are going well for the character, the film takes a nasty turn when office crush Fiona (Gemma Arterton) stands him up on a date. Here, guided by the voices of his two pets (a Scottish feline called Mr. Whiskers and mild mannered canine Bosco), Jerry is soon torn between two options – strive for normalcy, or continue his murderous blood sprees.
What makes this work so unique is its use of visuals. While it’s difficult to compare this to Satrapi’s previous films, the director’s heavily stylised approach to Persepolis and Chicken With Plums comes through nicely. In the movie’s opening, we are immediately introduced to a candy coated image of small town America – the factory’s uniform in which Jerry works striking with it’s bright pink colour. As the plot moves, this soon makes way for a bleaker, more gore-filled look, allowing us a glimpse into the character’s warped psyche.
Granted, it’s tricky to get the tone right for this sort of story, and for all its genre-blending, The Voices’ attempts may fall short for some. Indeed, critics of the movie have pointed to its supposed unevenness. In a way, however, this might be the point. Although it’s easy to criticize for this reason, the film is self-aware of its shifts in atmosphere; the plot balancing between humour and darkness. Probably best summed up by the closing segment, the movie finishes on a Busby Berkley-esque musical number, depicting Jerry and his victims in a bitter-sweet finale.
Overall, a humorous, if not off-beat work; while it may seem jarring for some, to those who do get along with it, The Voices is an enjoyable viewing, standing neatly alongside Satrapi’s credentials.
Callum Willmott is a second year English and Film student who enjoys reading, writing and (very) amateur photography. You cannot follow him on any blog or Twitter…