Little Voice (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoopy's comments in white:

"Little Voice" is a cool little movie, in which three of the four principals were nominated for acting awards, and the fourth is Ewan McGregor, who wasn't so bad either. It's about a young woman who hasn't left the house since her father died. She is meek and totally browbeaten by her loudmouth alkie mum, so she withdraws into her beloved dad's favorite music. Turns out she can perfectly mimic all the singers on those albums (Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe and others), so a sleazebag third-rate talent agent (Michael Caine) sees her as his way out, and will do anything to con and exploit her into performing publicly. 

The Brits seems to have a knack for these oddball films filled with quirky characters. Jane Horrocks is dazzling in her singing role. The girl can sing, too, I mean really sing - she did all her own songs for the film. Michael Caine got that charity Oscar for The Cider House Rules, but it made up for the fact that nobody noticed how good he was the previous year in this offbeat role.

I don't like musicals that much, but I liked it a lot. Elya and my daughter loved it.

In fact, this is a case where they needed to find a US distributor with some balls, willing to wait out some opportunities, maybe advertise a bit, because good notices and good word of mouth might have made this a hit. I've never met anyone who saw it and didn't like it. It could have gotten some Oscar nominations, in my opinion. 


Karen Gregory, as a stripper, was very briefly topless
Tuna's comments in yellow:

I have no idea how I missed this film when it came out. I rented it based on the fact that it was rated R, hoping for some nudity, but with no expectations. Had I checked IMDB first, I would have noticed that it is a foreign comedy, yet has an amazing 7.1/10 score from IMDB readers.  Brenda Blethyn received an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress, and the film garnered a Golden Globe for Michael Caine for his role as a sleazy talent promoter. UK gross was 8.054m, but US release was a total flop (3 screens, $93,722). Hmmmmm, maybe that is why I missed it.

Blethyn plays a widowed mother of "Little Voice (LV)," a young woman who is a recluse, and only lives for the records her father liked. At times, she sings to him (or his memory), and does it well. Blethyn meets Ray (Michael Caine), and brings him home. When Caine hears Little Voice (Jane Horrocks of Absolutely Fabulous fame) sing, he thinks he has discovered his goldmine. He convinces Jim Broadbent, sleazy nightclub owner, to give her a try. The only trick is to get LV to do the show. Ewan McGregor plays a telephone man who is more interested in homing pigeons than people, and becomes LVs love interest.

I had no idea watching this that it was originally a stage play -- the adaptation was that good. Blethyn was "bloody fookin' hilarious," with lines like, "Whats a matter with you lot, ain't you ever had a shag in a Chevy?" The most amazing thing about this film, however, was Horrocks voice. The first item in the credits was the tidbit that all of Jane Horrocks songs were sung by Jane Horrocks. She sounds every bit as good as the stars whose hits she performs, including Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Ethyl Merman, and even Marilyn Monroe. Granted that the film peaks when Horrocks is singing, but between Blethyn and Caine, there are no dead spots.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen letterbox 1.85:1

  • no significant features

As soon as this review is sent, I am ordering both the film and the soundtrack. Were it not a foreign musical comedy, which a lot of people don't like, I would grade it higher, but I will say B.

Post script:

The soundtrack from Little Voice, for some reason known only to them,  features the original artists on all but two tracks. The good news, is that there is a British import available that is all Jane. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars and then some. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, Maltin 3/4, Apollo 84.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 94% positive overall, 100% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.1, Apollo users 71/100. 
  • With their dollars ... unnoticed in the USA, but did a respectable $12 million in the UK
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, we agree that this film is a B or better.

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