“Sound of My Voice” – Review by Laurie Coker

For me there has never been a curiosity regarding cults. I have followed news reports regarding mass suicides and watched at the Waco tragedy unfolded, but I can in no way understand the mindset of people who run or get involved and give themselves completely over to cults. The Sound of My Voice, which I saw at SXSW two years ago, did intrigue me a little when I read the write up, but as I sat and watched the film, I felt more bored than curious. Perhaps this was due in part to the film’s slow pacing, but ultimately, The Sound of my Voice, held no real interest to me. I wasted a trip from the heart of the festival to Alamo South for an hour and a half of nothing special.

The film stars Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius and Brit Marling. Peter (Denham) and Lorna (Vicius) infiltrate a cult, lead by Maggie (Marling) a beautiful woman who claims to be from the future. They go in to find out how the cult works and Lorna actually, and Peter to a degree, falls prey to the brainwashing of Maggie and her followers. For the most part, in a nutshell, the pair, going in originally to study the cult, fall prey to it, especially Lorna and it is about that exciting.

Pacing presents a serious problem with The Sound of My Voice. The turtle could outrun (as opposed to outsmarting) the hare if the hare was this movie. White and fluffy, soft and annoyingly condescending, Maggie made me want to punch her in the face, and I am not prone to violence. The cult environment held no interest to me and I think anyone so weak as to buy in to the load of crud dished out in one, deserves the brainwash and this film exemplifies that.

Because Peter and Lorna, whose lives are revealed in flashbacks, are broken souls (and really who isn’t somewhat cracked in real life anyway), we are supposed to believe that they infiltrate the cult as research, but can’t help from falling into its hole. Trouble it is all so trite, unemotional and uneventful that I nearly fell asleep several times. Sure, SXSW is exhausting, but that matters not with good films and The Sound of My Voice simply is not a good film. It is amateurish and uninteresting, playing out like a poorly produced undergrad film project and not one deserving of a Fox Searchlight sponsorship.

It seems harsh, this review, but when I saw this film in 2011, I never, ever, ever imagined anyone would pick it up, nor did I think it would hit any mainstream theatre, but here it is over a year later, like a bad dream – one I thought would vanish upon waking (okay I did doze off a bit in the screening). Fox Searchlight invited me to a preview recently, and the sheer thought of seeing it again had me yawning and droopy-eyed. I can’t imagine why star/director Brit Marling did not model her film after far more extraordinary cults. There is nothing artsy, clever or remotely interesting about Maggie, or her crazy, uninspiring cult and what happens behind its doors.

Making matters worse, there are unexplained characters (an old woman and a young girl), strange undeveloped storylines and generally a hodgepodge of nothing. Maggie’s soft spoken megalomaniac musings do little to impress me, and because her story is ridiculous, no sane person should be impressed. I guess that is the point. Cult members typically lack sanity or sense. I am placing an F in my grade book. I somehow doubt Fox Searchlight will make its money on this one.  Anyone who buys into this arbitrary trip into inane nothingness needs to join a sect or some sort.

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