‘The Voices’ Review: Unspeakably Brilliant
We all like to think that we are not mad, and we all shudder in horror at the thought that perhaps we really are. There really is no way to know for sure that the world around us isn’t a construct of our own fragile psyches, that the people we know and love aren’t figments of the imagination, and that the refrigerator from which we extract our life-giving nourishment isn’t actually filled with body parts that we simply force ourselves not to notice with all our might.
It is that fundamental fear, that what we see is not what we get, that Marjane Satrapi captures perfectly in The Voices, a new horror comedy starring Ryan Reynolds as Jerry, a mild-mannered worker drone at a plumbing factory, blissfully unaware that his dog and cat (also voiced by Ryan Reynolds) shouldn’t be talking to him. Bosco is a big happy dog who thinks that Jerry is a good boy, and Mr. Whiskers is a sadistic orange tabby who knows better, and urges Jerry to kill.
There are several movies going on simultaneously in The Voices, bouncing off of each other and fighting for dominance. Jerry’s sitcom life with his talking pets and misfired attempts to date the new office hottie Fiona (Gemma Arterton) are bittersweet at worst, chipper at its best. But as the bodies pile up and the severed heads start to fill his fridge, doubt creeps in, pills are taken, and a nightmare world of absolute terror peeks in from the periphery, occasionally revealing itself in grim detail.
But it is the particular brilliance of director Marjane Satrapi that the absolute denial in which Jerry lives is so infectious, so seductively innocent, that we yearn for it. Even though we know better, even though we recoil at Jerry’s disarming ignorance of his own homicidal mania, we sympathize with his plight. It really does seem better to live a beautiful lie than accept that Jerry is an evil monster, and by instilling this sense of profound and visceral sympathy, Satrapi places us in the mind of a maniac more perfectly than perhaps any other film. She makes us implicit in his madness, for we too are choosing to embrace this tempting lie, rather than confront a shocking truth.
That’s a macabre prospect, and yet The Voices is utterly inviting. It’s a funny film, maybe even more so than it is disturbing, and Ryan Reynolds gives a particularly exceptional performance as a poor sap with no idea that he’s a psychopath. You want to hug him and take care of him, and you start to realize that even the most seemingly monstrous human being is probably only doing their best. It’s not fun that people are getting murdered, it’s not cut and dry that Jerry is even wrong. He’s simply ill, operating in a culture that doesn’t know entirely what to do with him, which suffers the ugly consequences of ignoring his condition.
The Voices is a brilliantly executed, subjective glimpse into a fractured mind. A serial killer slaughterhouse coated in the sugary caramel of the disturbed protagonist’s own creation. Appealing to look at, grotesque to bite into, and absolutely genius.