Friday, February 6, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: THE VOICES Will Challenge Everything You Think About Ryan Reynolds

I have never liked Ryan Reynolds. I wasn't won over by his breakout role in Van Wilder, his forays into comic book territory have varied from misguided to insufferable, and his propensity for bargain bin rom-coms made me write him off entirely. I never even entertained the thought that Ryan Reynolds was an actual actor. After seeing The Voices, I can no longer take that stance. In fact, I have to completely reverse it and declare that Ryan Reynolds might be one of our secret, untapped great actors.

Reynolds' role as Jerry, a child-like factory worker, is one that would be very easy to mess up. He radiates with boyish shyness, making him immediately lovable and sweet. ...But he's also mentally unstable (he has conversations with his dog and cat, both voiced by Reynolds), has a disturbing past, and ends up giving into some of his darkest impulses. It's a tightrope walk between sympathy and repulsion, and Reynolds never falters for a second. Throughout the film, we never stop caring about Jerry, and for a film about a schizophrenic murderer, that is an astounding feat.

The script (written by Michael R. Perry) helps strengthen that investment by keeping the film almost exclusively from Jerry's perspective. For better or for worse, we are in Jerry's head for the majority of the running time, and it makes us feel close to him. Your mileage will vary when it comes to how uncomfortable you feel with that proximity, but I think even the most squeamish and judgmental viewer will find some kind of pity for Jerry.

Another benefit is how director Marjane Satrapi chooses to visualize the world Jerry lives in. I don't want to spoil anything in this regard, so I'll leave this section fairly small. Suffice it to say, Jerry's environment is a great reflection of how he views the world, through the good times and the bad.

I've noticed that The Voices is being labeled as a dark comedy. While the film has enough black humor to warrant that description, it has more in common with the remake of Maniac than it does something like Serial Mom. It's a horror drama, but with just enough laughs to diffuse how incredibly sad and gruesome it really is. Its examination into the delusions we create in order to survive the ugliness of reality are not inherently funny, but there are a few snippets of gallows humor that make this harsh pill a little easier to swallow.

But, at the center of it all is a landmark turn by Ryan Reynolds that absolutely anchors the film. As ghastly as things get, Reynolds' keeps you engaged with a performance that will certainly go down as one of his most accomplished. As someone who thought next to nothing about him when I started watching The Voices, now I'm beyond excited to see if this marks a new direction for the actor. I can honestly say that I eagerly await the next time I get to watch a Ryan Reynolds movie. If it's anywhere near as compelling as The Voices, I will be thoroughly pleased.

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