Daily | Sundance 2014 | Marjane Satrapi’s THE VOICES

The Voices

Ryan Reynolds in ‘The Voices’

The Voices was one of the most buzzed-about movies at Sundance and for good reason,” writes Nathan Rabin at the Dissolve. “It’s not every day Marjane Satrapi, the acclaimed artist behind the graphic novel Persepolis and its Oscar-nominated film adaptation, makes a deeply nutty cult comedy in which Ryan Reynolds plays a tormented man driven to kill by his psychotic talking cat…. In an assured directorial turn, Satrapi gives the film the candy-colored vivacity of a live-action cartoon and sinister quirk of the Coen brothers, but the film’s dark comedy would curdle without the scary conviction Reynolds brings to the lead role, a sort of chipper psychosis and unhinged sweetness.”

“Reynolds plays Jerry Hickfang, a happy worker on the shipping line at a bath-and-toilet manufacturer in a small town called Milton,” explains James Rocchi at the Playlist (where he gives the film a B). “Jerry wants to fit in—desperately—and he volunteers to work on the company picnic with the hottie from accounting played by Gemma Arterton, but two of the most important figures in Jerry’s life have divided opinions on if that’s good or bad; specifically, his dog Bosco and cat Mr. Whiskers, who speak to Jerry in a jovial slowpoke baritone (Bosco) or a coarse Scottish burr (Mr. Whiskers) and function as his super ego and id. Bosco and Mr. Whiskers’ capacity for speech is entirely in Jerry’s mind, of course; so are a lot of other things.”

“[T]here is a demented screenwriter named Michael R. Perry who should probably be on some kind of watch list,” warns Eric D. Snider at (9/10). “Perry’s screenplay, named one of the best unproduced scripts of 2009, probably doesn’t go where you think it will… The plot veers madly between dark comedy and graphic horror, and Satrapi handles the tonal shifts with expert skill.”

“For a while, The Voices is a deftly executed, bloody-minded satire,” grants Sam Adams at Criticwire, “but as the movie moves on in the same vein, it becomes clear Satrapi doesn’t know what, if anything, she’s satirizing. The movie’s closest analogue might be John Waters’s Serial Mom, but Waters’s attack on social strictures has more teeth than The Voices‘ glib misanthropy, and Kathleen Turner’s protagonist has more layers, and more comic zest, than Reynolds’ knife-wielding choirboy.”

Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi

“Satrapi’s disreputable little creepshow finally doesn’t amount to a hill of beans,” agrees the Guardian‘s Xan Brooks, but: “Maybe that’s fine. The Voices provides an enjoyably trashy antidote to the traditional Sundance fare of soulful drama and crusading documentary. Bosco might point out that there are far better movies on the schedule than this one and Bosco would be right. But Mr. Whiskers feels that life is too short to be so prissy. Go and gorge yourselves, says Mr. Whiskers. Hang the consequences.”

At Indiewire, Mary Sollosi gives The Voices an A, finding it “as thrilling and hilarious as it is bizarre.” Jeff Bayer at “This is the Reynolds I dreamed of when I was enjoying his sitcom antics 15 years ago.” More from Daniel Fienberg (HitFix), Tim Grierson (Screen), Chris Nashawaty (EW), Nathaniel Rogers and Boyd van Hoeij (Hollywood Reporter).

Jordan Hoffman ( interviews Satrapi and both Kyle Buchanan (Vulture) and Jeff Labrecque (EW) quote the same bit from the Sundance Q&A: “When first I read the script and I said to my producer, ‘We are not going to do any gore.’ I don’t like blood. No way I’m going to do this kind of stuff. Then there was that first scene where there’s blood all over [Gemma Arterton] and I was like, ‘More blood! More blood!’ And I realized actually that I really liked that. I showed my mom a version of the movie, and she told me, ‘You’re completely sick in your brain.'”

Updates, 2/1: “In tapping Satrapi to interpret this project, the producers have done about as well as one could expect with such material,” writes Variety‘s Peter Debruge. “Still, a bit more consistency in style would have gone a long way: The pic’s tone is all over the place, from the bright red razor slash that underscores its opening titles to the Amelie-esque flights of fancy along the way (lensed a bit too darkly by French horror helmer Maxime Alexandre, and augmented by CG butterflies and other surreal touches). Even the music, which pits ironically selected oldies against a misleading score from Persepolis composer Olivier Bernet, doesn’t quite fit either the movie The Voices is pretending to be or the nastier one lurking beneath.”

“While profane violence and guilty guffaws are certainly possible, though generally hard won, whether they be from more high (Coen Bros.) or low (John Waters) brow vantage points, here we have a rather sluggish and tonally awkward blend that is neither successful as a comedy or a darker genre effort,” finds Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema.

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