I’ve said it before, but this has never been more apropos: I am tired of being expected to have a sense of humor about the violent abuse and even the murder of women. Complain about a rape joke or a horror flick in which a sexy half-naked girl is killed in an awesome way, and you’re likely to be told to “lighten up, it’s just a bit of fun.” (If you’re a woman, that is. If you’re a man, you’re just as likely to be applauded for your insightful cultural criticism.) And now The Voices seems to be a deliberate provocation, designed to dare the likes me: Shall I be the “cool girl” that Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne describes, the one who laughs along as Ryan Reynolds in his snappy pink jumpsuit saws up a woman’s body on his kitchen counter, just so I can be one of the guys? Or shall I be the humorless feminist harpy bitch ruining everyone else’s party by pointing out that a chipper comedy about a serial killer that wants us to feel sorry for him and that ends in a happy song and dance in heaven with his victims — who are apparently delighted to have been murdered — and with Jesus Christ himself is disgusting, repulsive, and enraging?
I think you can guess which side I’m coming down on.
I’ve seen some woman-hating movies in my time, but I’ve never seen anything like The Voices before. I’m astounded and disappointed that it comes from director Marjane Satrapi, who made a rare girl’s coming-of-age film in Persepolis. (Maybe she’s trying to be the “cool girl” with Hollywood?) Screenwriter Michael R. Perry has been mostly a TV writer, but he also wrote Paranormal Activity 2, which should have been a warning sign. The tone of his script — and the film’s sprightly production design — is very much this: Who couldn’t sympathize with Jerry (Ryan Reynolds: A Million Ways to Die in the West, The Croods) when he “accidentally” kills his coworker Fiona (Gemma Arterton: Runner Runner, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) while she was running away from him in terror. Through the woods at night. In her underwear. Who hasn’t been there? And hey, didn’t she stand him up on their date? She kind of deserved it. Anyway, it’s not like he meant to stab her. Multiple times. While she was lying on the ground unable to escape his grasp.
It’s all a lark! It’s a lark when he fools his “court-appointed psychiatrist” (Jacki Weaver: Magic in the Moonlight, Parkland) into believing that he is not being directed in his actions by voices in his head. It’s hilarious because he actually is! It’s a lark when he has long involved conversations with his pets about whether he should kill again. It’s a lark that Mr. Whiskers is a beautiful orange kitty with a foul mouth, a Scottish accent, and murderous intent, and that the big dumb dog Bosco is an ineffective angel on Jerry’s shoulder unable to counter Mr. Whiskers’ devil. Isn’t that just like a cat, and just like a dog? Charming! (Reynolds provides the animals’ voices. Such actor! So talent!) It’s a lark when Fiona’s severed head in Jerry’s fridge is joined by that of Lisa (Anna Kendrick: Happy Christmas, Drinking Buddies), and he proceeds to have a wonderful relationship with the two women — well, with their heads — who talk to him and support him in ways they never did while they were alive. (Let Fiona try to stand him up now!) How marvelous for Jerry.
Oh, but wait: Lisa really did genuinely like Jerry and would never have stood him up for a date and in fact actually pursued him. And it turns out it’s only in Jerry’s head that the world looks so happy and bright and pink. And there’s a secret in his past that haunts him. So it turns out that The Voices is also a tragedy. Sadness!
It’s almost impossible to truly convey how appalling The Voices is. Imagine if someone made a musical comedy about lynching that featured men dangling from nooses belting out a tune called “Just Hangin’ Around,” and later there was a melancholy ballad in which hooded KKKers lamented how they just can’t help being bigoted butchers, while their victims looked on sadly and told them not to be so hard on themselves. Except the difference would be: lynching is a thing (mostly) of the past. But women are killed by men they know and trust every day. And that fact is denied, downplayed, and even ignored, a situation that is fostered by “entertainment” like this despicable movie.