Review by Michael Dequina.
While Fox Searchlight is pushing the modest Irish comedy Waking Ned
Devine as this year's The Full Monty, a more interesting--but no
less shameless--crowdpleaser from the British Isles is sneaking onto the
marketplace: Little Voice, an admittedly formulaic little trifle
that is made meatier by the personalities of its performers.
The title character (Jane Horrocks), nicknamed "L.V.", is a soft-spoken
young woman who spends her days and nights listening to her late, beloved
father's old record collection, much to the chagrin of her boozy floozy
mother Mari (Brenda Blethyn). Through listening to the likes of Judy
Garland and Shirley Bassey, the meek L.V. has developed quite a big singing
voice of her own, catching the ear of one of Mari's greasy lovers, Ray Say
(Michael Caine). A wildly unsuccessful talent agent, Ray sees L.V. as his
long-awaited ticket to the big time.
Writer-director Mark Herman's script, based on Jim Cartwright's play The
Rise and Fall of Little Voice, goes through predictable, pedestrian
paces, with Mari and Ray attempting to exploit L.V.'s gift without paying
attention to her needs as a person. (The only person who pays much
attention to her is kind, pigeon-raising telephone worker Billy, played by
Ewan McGregor.) But what makes the film consistently engaging is its lead
trio of characters. Caine and especially Blethyn are a hoot, exuding the
right mix of sleaze, sexuality, selfishness, and even sympathy; the power
of Ray's climactic breakdown comes as a bit of a shock.
But the star of the film, as it should be, is indeed Horrocks, recreating
her acclaimed stage role. She is quite simply remarkable, equally
convincing speaking in a mousy murmur and belting "Big Spender" with the
full-throttle lungs of a true diva. Horrocks, amazingly enough, not only
did her own singing, she did it all live on the set, with no pre-recorded
help. Quiet or loud, hers is the voice that clearly rings throughout--and
should be heard among the nominees on Oscar night.
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