By Ben New
Marjane Satrapi, writer/director of the multi award winning semi-autobiographical animation Persepolis (2007), has a stab at creating this offbeat quirky comedy scripted by the versatile (and one time Eerie Indiana episode) writer Michael R. Perry.
Jerry, played by Ryan Reynolds, is a factory worker who lives alone above a bowling ally. That is except for his pet cat Mr. Whiskers and his dog Bosco who, also voiced by Reynolds, insist on giving him polarising advice and commentary on his day-to-day interactions with the people around him. This primarily includes Fiona, (Gemma Arterton) the ‘office hottie’, who Jerry quickly develops an unrequited affection for, Lisa (Anna Kendrick), who in turn has feelings for Jerry and Dr Warren (Jaki Weaver), Jerry’s psychiatrist. Things take a turn for the worse when events sparked by a road accident result in Fiona being left for dead in the woods. Mr. Whiskers forces Jerry’s hand to cover up all the incriminating evidence, setting Jerry on the path to becoming an unintentional serial killer.
This films central gimmick of talking pets (and decapitated heads) is a fairly novel way of tackling the portrayal of schizophrenia. The voices Jerry hears are his own but his mental disorder means he places his jumbled internal monologue in the mouths of others; the moment when this is realised by Jerry is one of the better scenes in the film. So is the final counseling Dr Warren gives him near the climax of the film, her dialogue on the similarities between her thoughts and the voices he hears reduces Jerry to whimper ‘that’s like ten years of therapy in ten seconds’.
Unfortunately the depiction of Jerry and all the good intentions of the film are undermined by the films relentless attempt to be kooky and quirky. This is mainly a problem with the central performance; Reynolds has the arduous task of walking a very difficult line between the more serious depiction of schizophrenia and that of being a lovable goon. The result doesn’t quite sit right, hinting at schizophrenia being synonymous with being simple. This also proliferates through the supporting cast giving them all a flimsy one-dimensional identity as they are unsure which side of the line to land. This isn’t helped by there being too much plot to get through about Jerry’s condition to give anyone else the space to really do anything or have any goals for themselves.
Of course, this could all be forgiven if this ‘black comedy’ was actually funny. Sadly, it fails to deliver any real laugh out loud moments at all and I was left wondering if the only the filmmakers had the conviction to make a more serious film of this or a more surreal and out there comedy it might have worked. So, although it is not with out a few individual moments of merit, overall it feels tonally confused and struggles to find it’s own voice.
The Voices is available on DVD, Blu-Ray & limited edition steelbook from July 13th.