An amazing performance by Jane Horrocks in the title role energizes LITLLE VOICE, a British import that deliciously brings back the wonderful music and razzle dazzle of terrific saloon singers like Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Billie Holliday, Shirley Bassey, Marlene Dietrich, and Marilyn Monroe. Horrocks is so good that many viewers may wish the movie had just been one long concert movie showcasing her talents, without the two disgusting, mean-spirited pagan characters who abuse her character throughout the movie’s non-musical storyline.
British actress Brenda Blethyn plays Mari (Marie), the talkative, crude mother of Horrocks’ character in the piece. Mari calls her daughter LV for short and is totally immersed in her own sex life, which includes going to bars and picking up men. When she is not making funny sexual innuendoes and sly jokes in a non-ending monologue, Mari spends her time at home yelling at LV, who keeps to her room upstairs while playing her dead father’s records of Sinatra, Garland, Bassey, and Monroe. The movie symbolizes the sparks that fly from Mari to LV by having actual sparks fly from the poorly-wired electrical outlets of their home. Meanwhile, a young man named Billy, who works part-time for the local telephone man and raises homing pigeons, tries to bring LV out of her shell by finding clever ways to visit her house.
One night, Mari brings home middle-aged Ray Say, a sleazy talent agent played by the venerable Michael Caine, a fine, underrated actor. When an electrical problem shuts off the power, including LV’s record machine, LV imagines herself singing one of her father’s favorite songs to his spirit, who watches lovingly. Ray overhears her velvet tones, a wonderful imitation of the voice on the record. He immediately knows that he is finally sitting on the gold mine he has been looking for all his talent-scouting days.
Eventually, Ray convinces LV to sing at the biggest local nightclub, but he chooses to ignore her when she says that she’ll only sing just one time for the people. At the nightclub, LV again imagines performing just for the spirit of her beloved father and gives one of the most electrifying performances ever captured on film. On stage at the nightclub, LV displays tremendous impersonations of all the great female singers mentioned above. She is so good, and the ovation from the crowd is so fantastic, that Ray thinks he can get LV to perform again and again. When she doesn’t show up for the next performance, however, bad things happen, Billy must save the day, and LV confronts her terrible mother, finally getting a few words in edgewise… and, what words they are!
The story between LV and Billy is so sweet, and Horrocks’ performance so marvelous, that one wishes this movie had toned down the disgusting qualities of the two villains played by Michael Caine and Brenda Blethyn, even though their performances are among the best in the movie. Great drama often requires conflict and villains, but the first two-thirds of this movie seems to take a delight in many of the sleazy qualities of Mari and Ray, especially their foul language, sexual innuendoes and illicit escapades. Yet these very qualities are representative of the mean-spirited, selfish attitudes in Mari and Ray that the movie attacks. Thus, the movie contains an inherent moral hypocrisy that dilutes the dramatic power of its ending and damages the moral qualities of its story.
Consequently, parents may want to wait until this movie comes out on video and just edit out the bad parts so they can enjoy the incredible musical performances Jane Horrocks gives and the touching scenes between her and Billy. They also might want to keep the opening, with Sinatra’s great rendition of “Come Fly with Me,” and the closing credits, where Ethel Merman belts out, “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
Mild romantic worldview with strong pagan characters taking advantage of weaker innocent person, who's befriended by a young man with a good, moral heart; 54 obscenities, 11 strong profanities, 22 British curse words, several vulgarities, plus crude sexual language; mild violence including man shoves older woman, man slaps younger woman, woman shoves man, who falls down stairs, & accidental fire; depicted sexual foreplay, mostly clothed; upper female nudity during striptease audition; alcohol use & abuse; smoking; and, miscellaneous immorality such as abusive parent & past promiscuous adultery mentioned.