you think talking cats are cute, like Garfield? Well, think again.
Anthropomorphism can be a sinister business, but don’t worry, talking dogs are
still cool. Regrettably, poor luckless Jerry Hickfang hears them both in
Marjane Satrapi’s The Voices (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
Hickfang is clearly trying too hard to be liked by his co-workers at the Milton
faucet and bath factory, but he seems harmless enough. Of course, they do not
hear the conversations he has with his cat, Mr. Whiskers, and his loyal canine,
Bosco. Mr. Whiskers does not suffer fools gladly. In fact, he is all in favor
of killing them. In contrast, the dim-witted but affectionate Bosco always
tries to find the best in people. Fortunately, good old Bosco can usually
counterbalance Mr. Whiskers’ devilish influence, but it gets difficult when
Hickfang is under emotional stress.
what he tells his court-ordered psychiatrist, Hickfang has gone off his meds
(hence the conversations with his pets). To make matters worse, getting the
brush-off from Fiona, the British office sexpot, will hardly help his mental
stability. Still, Lisa, her slightly more demur office-mate, continues to carry
a torch for him. She might be his perfect match, but it is hard to envision
Hickfang developing a healthy relationship, especially when we see his
apartment without the happy haze of his dementia.
with Mississippi Grind at this year’s
Sundance, The Voices ought to give
Ryan Reynolds’ career a new lease on life. If nothing else, he ought to be able
to find plentiful cartoon voice-over work, because his voices for Mr. Whiskers
and Bosco are terrific. Who knew he could do such a pitch-perfect snippy Scottish
accent for the former? He also does quite an impressive job conveying Hickfang’s
naïve earnestness, along with his mounting mania. He is a tragic monster, in
the Lon Chaney, Jr.-Wolfman
tradition, who does not want to kill, but puts himself in that position through
his own disastrous, but understandable, decision-making.
it is hard to understand why it takes Hickfang so long to notice Anna Kendrick’s
Lisa, but she definitely adds to the film’s energy and chemistry. Yet, the x-factor
might be Jacki Weaver, who adds considerable humanity and authority to the film
in her relatively brief turn as the over-worked Dr. Warren.
is hard to imagine this is the same Satrapi who made Persepolis and Chicken with Plums, but she displays the same eye for visuals, employing color in bold
and distinctive ways. When she contrasts Hickfang’s lunacy-tinged perspective
with the film’s objective reality, it is quite effective. Cinematographer
Maxime Alexandre gives it a warm, stylish sheen that somehow manages to feel slightly
off, in the right way.
On paper, it all might sound rather sad and
grubby, but it is actually a rather elegant little macabre tragedy. Recommended
for genre audiences and fans of Reynolds and Kendrick, who want to see the
thesps in a radically different context, The
Voices opens this Friday (2/6) in New York, at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Anna Kendrick, Marjane Satrapi, Ryan Reynolds, Talking animals