Little Voice (15)

Directed by Mark Herman
Starring Michael Caine, Brenda Blethyn, Jane Horrocks, Ewan MacGregor, Jim Broadbent

This very successful stage play was written especially for Jane Horrocks who stars as Little Voice, an almost terminally shy girl who has an uncanny ability to impersonate the top singers Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe and others. Horrocks' really does all the singing in this very enjoyable film version although she has a much smaller speaking role. The real star of this film is Michael Caine, who returns with a vengeance and is simply brilliant as a Ray, seedy theatre talent spotter who sees LV(as Little Voice is called by her outrageously over the top mother Mari played by Brenda Blethyn), as his next meal ticket. We also meet pigeon fancier Billy(MacGregor), a quiet telephone engineer who sees something in LV and tried to befriend her. Meanwhile, Ray and Mari try to persuade LV to take to the stage and show off her talent. No easy thing to do.
Director Mark Herman, who did very well with Brassed Off a few years back, does a good job of opening out the play so that the film does not betray its stage roots much at all, except in the fact that it gives meaty roles to all the lead actors. The seedy seaside town setting is very atmospheric, and the story is a delight. Blethyn overacts terribly, but actually it does work within the context of the film for her larger than life character, further emphasising the gulf between her and LV. She is a tragic and grotesque figure, looking for a good time and a way out of her dead end life with her mute daughter. Caine portrays the down at heel and desperate Ray very well. Coaxing LV into performing or getting drunk and expressing his frustration at the way life has passed him by, Caine is better than he has been in years and was unlucky not to get Oscar nominated as Brenda Blethyn was. Jane Horrocks is one of the best actresses around, although we have not seen her as mousy in many of her other roles. She is excellent as the quiet little thing, who finally gets the chance to start living. The main problem is that film goers won't realise that it really is her doing all the singing. Horrocks claims not to be a singer, merely an impersonator. If that is the case, well, she is an excellent impersonator. There was talk of the film being made with Gwyneth Paltrow in the LV role and dubbing her singing. Thank goodness that didn't happen. It would have been horrendous.
Special mention to Jim Broadbent as just about the worst club comedian/host we have seen on the screen! Broadbent was brilliant as the embarrassing host of a not even third rate club. Tribute band Take Fat and an elderly couple with a knife throwing act were just hilariously awful. Not a club I would frequent I think! A British film, and one that is very good too. 8/10

January 1999

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