The film ‘The Voices’ starring Ryan Reynolds is, at it’s heart, a mishmash of tired tropes that never really engages it audience despite the chemistry of it’s lead and likable supporting cast. To be clear, I am not a fan of the narrative device of the unreliable narrator and while this film hasn’t turned me around on that viewpoint; it utilizes this trope the best of all the gimmicks it trots out. Mostly the film fails on because of the trope that has nagged me for some time, that is the trope of the mental patient who won’t use their prescribed medication but it doesn’t effect their actions or ability to blend into normal society until it’s necessary to facilitate the facile story.
The conceit of the film is that a normal nerdy guy (you know Ryan Reynolds- I mean how does this poor bastard get laid) is lonely and the only way for him to interact with his only friends is to forego his antipsychotic meds. His friends are his household pets a dog and a cat, both voiced by Reynolds, and these are the scenes in the movie that work the best. Really his pets are yet another trope of the angel and the devil on his shoulders with his dog voicing the moral concerns around his ever spiraling situation and the cat egging him on urging his baser more primal instincts. If this whole film had taken place in his apartment with his pets I may have enjoyed the film overall.
The supporting cast is small and only serves as act breaks, Gemma Arterton the buxom apple of his eye and Anna Kendrick as the quirky account who is totally into him, though he can’t see it for his infatuation with Arterton. On all accounts the performances weren’t a hindrance to the film without really doing much to propel the lackluster story. Again the only thing I’ll take away from the film are the chuckles had between Reynolds, Reynolds, and Reynolds, so perhaps I’ll just check out ‘Look Who’s Talking 3’ instead of a repeat viewing of this film.
Overall this film is yet another example of how not to do a dark comedy. The ranks of quality dark comedies are exactly swelling, but really anything the Coen Brothers make that doesn’t have a straight drama tag, and if you really want to see a smaller dark comedy done well watch Brenden Gleason in ‘The Guard’ or Cillian Murphy in ‘Intermission’, perhaps I’m a bit of a Europhile in this regard. ‘The Voices’ just doesn’t hit on the levels of these films despite having all the right ingredients; my voice would tell you to skip it.
When I first considered viewing the phenomena that is the 5-time Oscar nominated ‘Whiplash’ it was with a small amount of trepidation believing that this was a Rudy character study of overcoming tremendous odds in the world of contemporary Jazz. I was, however, revitalized during the film to learn how wrong my assumptions were, this film was about overcoming odds, but on a much grander scale… at least that’s what the film would have you believe. And it did, the film was successful in it’s endeavor to make me believe that the goal of prestigious Jazz instructor (J.K. Simmons) to find and mentor a legend on par with Charlie Parker and the methods he employs to achieve this goal.
All the performances given in this move were on point with the depth and complexity that was certainly on the page. Miles Teller is always engaging and keeps the audience on the side of his character Andrew which at times is a difficult gambit with his single minded focus and drive. Personally I find him representative of a younger set of interesting actors who are more Dustin Hoffman than Brad Pitt, not that he is necessarily an everyman, but you aren’t likely to see him on a Calvin Klein billboard anytime soon. J.K. Simmons is more or less playing the same character as Teller, just from a different point of life, career, and potential; his Oscar nomination is well deserved and if you’re familiar with his work dating back to Oz through parts on several Coen Brothers films and of course in the Spiderman franchise, this won’t be a total shock. Watch also for Paul Reiser, who makes hay with the small amount of screen time he does have, especially the understated performance his gives in the closing scene.
The real surprise of this move for me is how much I enjoyed the music; not being a particular fan of Jazz I found the selections engaging and also exceptionally listenable as this is a real music movie considering the fact that we are mostly following one character and his obsessive practicing of the same pieces. On that note it’s important to notice how claustrophobic the cinematography is and how effective it is in conveying the personal nature of the film but also demonstrating the cramped spaces that I’m certain the best musicians in New York must suffer considering the premium on real estate that they endure.
In closing ‘Whiplash’ has my highest recommendation, it set out to demonstrate how and what costs are involved with developing a legend, but doesn’t overstep it’s bounds and become fantastical. Balanced and nuanced, great music and performances, in the age where the zeitgeist seems to be screaming for an original story that doesn’t rely on special effects to wow an audience this is one that needs your support to ensure more of its ilk have an opportunity to see the celluloid of day.