Movie Magazine International

Little Voice

USA - 1998

Movie Review By Heather Clisby

Yet another dazzling gem from across the Atlantic, "Little Voice" is one of those small films that should be seen by the masses but won't be because they're too busy filling their minds with cinematic Cheez Whiz like "The Siege."

So, here's a brief history. Jim Cartwright wrote a critically acclaimed stage play, "The Rise and Fall of Little Voice" inspired by the jaw-dropping talents of his friend, Jane Horrocks. Mark Herman then authored a screenplay based on the story, wisely kept Horrocks in the title role, then directed it. Thankfully, the magic translated well.

In the tiny coastal town of Scarborough, England, there lives a tiny, meek young girl everyone calls "LV" for Little Voice. Ever since her beloved father died, LV hardly speaks and fills her days by listening over and over to her father's favorite record collection, which includes Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe.

Of course, she still has her mother, Mari, that is, if a brassy, loud-mouthed, insensitive tart can still be a mother. Played to the hilt by Brenda Blethyn, Mari spends her time boozing, chasing men and arranging her gaudy self to accommodate this lifestyle. She is an over-the-hill floozy with a sailor's mouth and a heart of . . . cheap beer. Mari refers to her mousy daughter in such loving terms as "you great big streak of piss." The two women are polar opposites in every way with mountains of resentment between them.

When George and Billy, two telephone repairmen, visit the unhappy home to work on the line, shy, young Billy, played with delightful, subtle charm by Ewan McGregor, becomes curious about the strange, wispy girl too shy to speak. Billy, a pigeon fancier, has the same reputation and sees a like-minded soul in LV.

Meanwhile, Mari snags a lover, a third-rate talent agent named Ray Say, whom she lovingly refers to as "Elvis Breath." Played by the proliferate Michael Caine, Ray quickly discovers LV's closeted talent for eerily impersonating recording stars of yesteryear and sees his golden ticket. I don't blame him, Harrocks performs all her own songs live and she is phenomenal, I mean, roof-off-the-house incredible.

It's refreshing to see a film with a strong story, interesting characters AND accomplished acting. Big points for Caine, who delivers one of his finest performances in years and Blethyn is perfectly despicable, pushing the definition of "bawdy" to new lows. But it is Harrocks who wows, proving once and for all, that big, amazing things can come in small packages.

© 1998 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 12/2/98

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