One thing about Netflix is that it does throw up some classics, despite its somewhat limited selection of films. I had never actually seen ‘Little Voice’, although its reputation was such that I somehow knew it! The film was directed by Sam Mendes and is an adaptation of the play ‘The Rise & Fall of Little Voice’, written in 1992 by Jim Cartwright. Diana Vickers took the lead role in a West End production in 2009/10.
LV, played by Jane Horrocks, is a painfully shy…teenager? (I am not sure, because it was really difficult to pin an age on her character.) Overpowered and belittled by her mother, LV spends most of her time in her room, playing records which belonged to her late father’s collection. But this is not pop music; LV loses herself in the greats – Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Edith Piaf. When LV’s mother, falls for washed-up talent agent, Ray Say (Michael Caine) and invites him to the house, Say overhears LV singing and spots an opportunity to make himself some money. He invests in a stage set, the punters arrive and wait. Literally petrified at first, LV is unable to move, let alone sing. When she finally finds her voice, it turns out to be anything but little. There is a spark within LV, which is ignited when she gets the opportunity to perform on stage. Her performance turns out to be a catalyst as she finds her voice both literally and metaphorically – with some faith in herself restored, LV finds courage to retaliate, sticking up for herself against her bullying mother.
Brenda Blethyn is tantalisingly awful as Mari Hoff. Her pathos is palpable, as she desperately clings to Ray, eking out the last of her looks. Her rejection of her daughter elicits sympathy for LV, who is seen cowering from the onslaughts. I might venture to suggest that this was the performance of a lifetime for Blethyn and it is not at all surprising that she was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe, even though it turned out to be Caine who won the Oscar for the film! Ewan McGregor pops up as the pigeon-fancying love interest for LV and Jim Broadbent is Mr Boo, seedy owner of the nightclub. Great British cast.
The storyline of the film is weak, but the movie is raised from mundane to marvellous by the showcase of talent. The singular most amazing thing about this film is that Jane Horrocks does all her own voices – given that she skilfully impersonates a diverse range of singers, from Shirley Bassey to Billie Holiday, this is no mean feat. Horrocks does it brilliantly.