Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
Ryan Reynolds is having a bit of a moment, even if too few people are seeing it. Taken together, his work in Atom Egoyan’s “The Captive,” Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck’s Sundance hit “Mississippi Grind” and, releasing On Demand and in limited theatrical release today, Marjane Satrapi’s “The Voices,” represent a renaissance for the actor, who is clearly taking roles that interest him instead of the biggest paychecks or most likely shots at stardom. I’ve always liked Reynolds for the most part, but he does his best work yet here in Satrapi’s odd, pitch-black comedy about a man who talks to his dog and cat. And they talk back.
The opening act of “The Voices” has echoes of Joel and Ethan Coen’s sarcastic looks at small town life as we meet the relentlessly upbeat Jerry (Reynolds), a worker at a toy factory at which he must dress in pink every day. He’s as happy as they come, gleefully planning an office party and over the moon at the fact that it will include a conga line to "Sing a Happy Song" like a cheesy wedding. It’s only when he returns to his rundown abode that his cat Mr. Whiskers sets him straight—“The only reason they don’t fire your ass is because you’re so hopelessly pathetic you amuse them.” Like so many filmmakers before her, Satrapi is exploring the dark underbelly and murderous intent of even the most cheerful, seemingly happy people in society.
Jerry needs to be on drugs to function normally. So says Dr. Warren (an underutilized Jacki Weaver), with whom he regularly meets. Without his anti-psychotic medication, Jerry talks to his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers (who are both perfectly voiced by Reynolds himself…which makes a twisted sense if you think about it). Bosco is the supportive angel to his loyal master while Mr. Whiskers is the devil on Jerry’s shoulder, encouraging bad behavior and denigrating every attempt at normalcy.
Jerry acts on his romantic interest in a gorgeous co-worker named Fiona (Gemma Arterton), asking her out for Chinese food. After she stands him up, he happens upon her in the road, offering her a ride home. A car crash leads to an accidental death, and before you know it Fiona’s head is in Jerry’s fridge. And it’s still talking to him. Bosco tries to convince Jerry that he’s still a good guy but Fiona wants a friend in the lonely refrigerator. Mr. Whiskers thinks that’s a grand idea.
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