REVIEW: The Voices

9 02 2015

The VoicesThe Voices” takes a protagonist plagued by mental illness, as in “Silver Linings Playbook,” and combines him with the unsuspecting, mild-mannered murderer like in “Bernie.”  The film’s Jerry, as played by Ryan Reynolds, is an outwardly cheery factory worker whose schizophrenia makes him subject to violent impulses.  He can mostly suppress these urges, yet the invented voices of his cat and dog begin to lure him into violence against the women of his company’s accounting department.

As he knocks off characters played by Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick, director Marjane Sartrapi aims for a tone of black comedy that never really sticks.  Sartrapi showed with her Oscar-nominated “Persepolis” that she can make a character with only two dimensions feel as whole as any actual human, so the film’s lack of depth feels especially disappointing.  She does not deserve all the blame, though; Michael R. Perry’s rather bland, unfunny script does not set the stage for her and the cast to succeed.

Not to mention, the humor of “The Voices” also falls victim to forces outside the movie.  Sartrapi obviously does not condone murder, but placing a character who commits them at the center of a story does make identification and sympathy much simpler.  By making Jerry the protagonist, the film does glorify his exploits to some small extent.  In a time where mentally disturbed people come unhinged and tear holes in communities like Aurora and Newtown, serving as a party to their crimes just feels inappropriate.  Laughing at them seemed downright wrong.  C+2stars

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F.I.L.M. of the Week (April 23, 2010)

23 04 2010

The “F.I.L.M. of the Week” exposé of some unconventional animated movies wraps up this week with a look at “Persepolis,” the film adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel of the same name.  It’s a very different kind of coming-of-age story, mainly because the struggles of growing up are only magnified by the struggle of a country to find stability.

The movie is an autobiographical account of Marjane’s youth against the backdrop of the constantly changing political climate of Iran.  But Marjane, even from a young age, has the perfect weapon to fight even the most repressive of regimes: resilience and high spirits.  She loves many of the Western items and concepts that the fundamentalists can’t stand, from Bruce Lee in her childhood to Michael Jackson in her adolescence.  In the ’80s, these luxuries are only available through the black market.  But no government is going to stop her from getting what she wants and expressing the way she feels.

“Persepolis” begins with Marjane at 9, firmly under the belief that she will be a prophet.  She’s a truly entertaining character, always filled with sass and never reticent to share it with the world.  Yet as a younger child, she’s completely susceptible to buying into whatever the latest trend her generation has bought into.  At one moment, she’s marching around her living room chanting “Down with the Shah!”  The next moment, she’s threatening the child of a government official.  Marjane’s outspoken nature draws her a lot of attention, and her parents ship her away to Vienna for schooling.  As the popular saying goes, “Once you leave home, you never really come back.”  She lives the rest of her life happy to be away from the turbulence of Iran but missing her family and country.

“Persepolis” is a beautifully woven story told with a very emotionally potent black-and-white animation.  It brushes on some tough topics, but it does so with the perfect mix of levity and gravity.  At times, it’s hilarious; others, it’s heartbreaking.  Yet at all times, it’s a delightful movie with a heart bigger than the country it documents.