I’m surrounded by passionate people. Almost everyone I know is really excited about something, and most of them always have a recommendation of some kind for me – “You HAVE to check out this awesome show/book/song/etc!” But there are a few people in my world who don’t often suggest things at all, let alone very strongly, and when they do, I take note. The other day a coworker of mine, who I don’t think had ever discussed a film with me beyond smalltalk, came into my office and with wide eyes asked me if I had ever seen The Voices. I told her I’d never even heard of it and she goes, “Oh my god, Amanda. It’s so f*cked up. You HAVE to watch it.” Naturally, I was intrigued and watched the trailer to get a sense of the film… Ryan Reynolds? In a pink jumpsuit? A talking cat? This looks hilarious! How f’ed up could this movie really be?
The answer? Pretty f’ed up. As in, holy crap. Feel like having the life drained right out of you for 103 minutes? Watch The Voices! The trailer is a lie. Don’t let that goofy talking dog, that jerky talking cat or Anna Kendrick’s adorable giggling lead you to believe this movie is anything other than a bleak, depressing, horrific journey into the warped mind and distorted reality of an incredibly dangerous and deluded schizophrenic named Jerry.
The premise could be considered campy, sure. Some lonely bachelor thinks his pets are talking to him, giving him dating advice – Ha-ha, right? Even with the talking heads of beautiful women in Jerry’s refrigerator, flirting with him every time he opens it, it could still pass as silly. Almost. The whole story could pass as a horror comedy, except for the intentional cracks in its shiny happy exterior. There are a few minutes scattered throughout this film that alter it completely. One moment you’re laughing, next you’re shifting uncomfortably in your seat. The Voices introduces us to its main character in a way that gives the viewer’s guard no reason to go up right away. Jerry. In his bright pink overalls, working his average job, crushing on cute girls in the office. Jerry. Who goes home and talks to his simple but sweet dog Bosco, and his bully of a cat Mr. Whiskers, both of whom talk back. Jerry… He’s just kinda wacky, right? It’s funny, right?
Wrong. It’s too disturbing, too sad and too true to be funny. It quickly becomes apparent that the majority of Jerry’s reality the way we have come to know it, is false. His talking pets are actually not talking pets, and their vocal capabilities are hallucinations which are the result of Jerry not taking his medication. The voices he hears are not real. None of it is real. Except when he cuts his date’s head off and puts it into the refrigerator, and chops the rest of her up into little pieces. That part, unfortunately, is real.
The gaps I mentioned, the cracks in the story, those come when Jerry does happen to take his meds. When he takes his pills, he sees (and we see) how disgusting his formerly clean and bright home actually is, how malnourished and almost feral his pets are and how lonely he is. It’s too much to bear. Of course Jerry stops taking his medication so he can feel happy again, blissfully unaware of how depressing his illness has made his life. Who wouldn’t want to live in a delusion if that delusion were better than reality?
As Jerry, unmedicated, takes advice from the voices he hears through the mouths of his pets, he becomes more and more dangerous to those around him. We learn about his past and the absolutely toxic partnership between nature and nurture in the case of mental illness. It’s tragic. Start to finish, it’s tragic. It’s hard to watch and even harder to forget.
Despite the words of my coworker that morning, I foolishly still expected The Voices to be a dark comedy. In ways it was, but in other ways it spoke some pretty big truths. One, it can be a fine line at times between a “bad” person and a sick person, and sometimes where that line is drawn can make all the difference. And two, even in a false reality created subconsciously by someone with little remaining grasp on fact or truth, cats are still total, total a-holes.
I liked The Voices overall. It was entertaining while still thought-provoking. So listen to that little voice inside you, and if it tells you to watch this movie, then do it. Unless you actually have a little voice inside you, in which case I suggest seeking help.