The Voices being sold as a comedy just might have the most misleading ad campaign since Fox tried to flog Slumdog Millionaire as a rom-com.
Of course, all the classic comedy elements are here: a kooky, simpleton protagonist; his wisecracking, talking pets; and the refrigerated severed head of Gemma Arterton demanding blood. Y’know, the usual.
The main folly here wasn’t in presenting the film as something of a lighter genre than what it is, the film has some genuinely laugh-your-arse-off moments, but in attempting to present the film as something which fits into any genre. ‘Dark comedy’ simply doesn’t cover The Voices. The dark in the comedy is pitch, and the comedy in the dark is engulfed. It’s hard to laugh fully at protagonist Jerry’s antics at work when back at home there’s a woman in 70-odd separate tupperwares.
The Voices‘ various contrasting elements constantly threaten to unbalance each other and topple the film. What holds these steady throughout the film is the performance – or rather trio of performances- of Ryan Reynolds as the unstable, loveable Jerry – with Reynolds also bringing to life Bosco the dog, and the standout Mr Whiskers, fitting, as each represents an aspect of Jerry’s persona. Bosco the angel on his right: “Don’t worry Jerry, you’re a good boy”, and Mr Whiskers quite the opposite: “she thinks of you as a peasant”, “kill her and you will feel truly alive”.
Reynolds performance is warm enough to help us through the film’s cold violence and funny enough to let us laugh when we really shouldn’t. Jerry is our sole light in the film’s dark. The film’s most disturbing scenes, beside the gore, come when Jerry takes the meds he’s been avoiding, and the pets sit silent and indifferent and the friendly head decomposes. Here Jerry falls into our own world, and the films simple story becomes clear, Jerry is a man simply, and relatably, afraid of being alone.
The Voices is a spectacular performance in a disjointed film, which manages to do what mainstream Hollywood has failed to do, or has been scared to do, for so long: humanise the psycho.