I’ve never had much of an opinion of Ryan Reynolds. He seemed like a dime-a-dozen movie star with impossibly good looks that have helped him survive several stinkers that would’ve otherwise have been career-destroying flops for anyone else. While I did enjoy him in both Deadpool movies, it looked to me like he was playing off his natural charisma and personality rather than employing any acting talent. However, after watching 2014’s The Voices I feel as though I’ve underestimated him.
Reynolds stars as Jerry, a good-natured man working in a bathtub factory. He also has some particularly severe schizophrenia. His cat and dog (also voiced by Reynolds) often talk to him, giving him both good and bad advice. After a date with his office crush goes wrong in the bloodiest of ways, his hallucinations become more intense, and Mr. Whiskers becomes more insistent that he continue killing people as a way of life.
The main reason to see the film is Ryan Reynolds as Jerry. He plays it a lot like Norman Bates from Psycho; he seems reasonable and pleasant enough, but you can tell there’s something very wrong with him when he interacts with other people. There are some parts of the film I was tempted to skip because his performance was so uncomfortably convincing. After a while, it’s not even distracting that he’s an unbelievably attractive young man in a working-class job surrounded by people neither as young nor handsome as he is.
His voice work as Mr. Whiskers and Bosco (the cat and dog respectively) is a bit more hit and miss. The problem isn’t so much with the delivery as it is with the voices. While Bosco has the exact voice you would expect a big dog to have, Mr. Whiskers has a Scottish accent which Reynolds delivers with only marginal success. I don’t know why they decided to go with that accent, but somebody somewhere should’ve reconsidered.
While the marketing for this film presents it as a dark comedy, it’s more of a tragedy presented from the viewpoint of a very disturbed man. In place of jokes, we explore Jerry’s psychological torment and his dark past which, thankfully, is very interesting. I’m not a psychologist by any stretch, but what The Voices seems to be trying to do is provide an accurate portrayal of schizophrenia. Jerry is socially and emotionally disconnected from what’s going on around him. He has intense hallucinations and often forms an emotional attachment at the slightest show of kindness. This gives people unhampered the psychological condition a glimpse into what it’s like to live with this condition. It also shows why certain individuals might not want to be rid of it.
While the technical aspects are nothing eye-catching, they do help significantly in the storytelling. Color is probably the film’s one strong storytelling element. When Jerry is working, the colors and lighting are bright and cheerful since it’s the only place he feels at peace. In Jerry’s apartment, he’s engulfed in warm light and shadow, reflecting the battle for his mind between Bosco and Mr. Whiskers. When he takes his medication and sees the real, disgusting state of his home, everything is cloaked in darkness and sickly colors. The next day, back in the bubble of his deranged mind, everything is bright, sunny and clean. When talking with his therapist, the scene is lit in grey, showing Jerry’s discomfort and his loose, undesired connection to reality.
With an engrossing performance from Reynolds and an incredible emotional execution, The Voices makes an enthralling Halloween treat. This is a more straight-faced, dramatic entry to the serial-killer genre. The Voices stands out by diving into the psyche of the serial killer himself. Give this one the attention it deserves.