Ryan Reynolds in The Voices: TIFF Review
Leonard Adam /Getty Images
Remember Ryan Reynolds, the movie star?
The star of The Green Lantern, R.I.P.D., and The Change Up? What about Buried and Adventureland? Torn between his cash-in commercial gambits and his independent spirits, Reynolds' rocky road to the top of the A-list continues in The Voices, the ultimate B-movie.
It’s a hyper-colour horror-comedy mash-up; Reynolds stars as Jerry, a simpleton factory worker from Milton, Ohio who, like his mother before him, is schizophrenic. Except Jerry's voices come in unusual forms. His pets talk to him in Scottish or sad-sack accents and convince him to either follow his sinister impulses or do his best to fit in with everybody else. As an icebreaker, his potty-mouthed cat, Mr. Whiskers, asks him if he "f-cked that bitch" after a date. Why not?
He's aloof, but handsome, and is infatuated with the hot girl at the office, Fiona (Bond girl Gemma Arterton), at the behest of Lisa (Anna Kendrick), an unassuming accountant with a crush. Though forced to take his government-mandated medication, Jerry takes a vacation from pill popping, only to discover his murderous urges. When Fiona stands him up for their date at a Chinese food dive, they end up reuniting after her car can't start in the pouring rain. Soaking wet, she reluctantly enters Jerry's truck. And then it all goes to hell.
Directed by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), if you have to give this film credit for anything, it's that it truly commits to being avant-garde. There's partial nudity, romantic entanglements, talking decapitated heads, karaoke, kung-fu scenes, animal humour, murderous thoughts and bloodlust, all wrapped in a tidy package and presented to Jerry's shrink, played by a bewildered Jacki Weaver. In other words, it has some element of something for everyone in a chaotic, bloody package.
Reynolds' Jerry is a clueless, soft-spoken Dexter knock-off who is just looking for love and to be understood. But this uncomfortable black comedy doesn't bring the laughs and makes light of mental illness. Its tone is all over the place and despite its talented roster of stars, you have to wonder what it was about its ghastly original screenplay that made everybody say yes. With no truly memorable lines, either, it remains unlikely that this film will become a self-aware cult classic like Evil Dead, or even Showgirls.
Yet, perhaps most interesting of all, is Reynolds' love and appreciation for this uneven mess. His allegiance to the character and source material is admirable. He was unavailable for press at the film's world premiere at Sundance due to illness, but at the Toronto premiere, he stopped to talk to every outlet on the red carpet, and was even more generous with his time during one-on-one interviews earlier in the day. According to him, this is a role that he had to fight for, perhaps to seek some cinematic redemption for his series of outstanding flops. You have to give him an A for effort and for taking a risk, but with its eccentric potpourri of mismatched ingredients, Reynolds should have listened to the voice that told him not to sign on to this part.