Film and TV

The episodic Sound of My Voice feels unfinished

Twenty-something Silver Lake couple Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) talk their way into an unnamed cult that meets to follow the teachings of the enigmatic Maggie (Brit Marling). A glowing blonde dressed in white shrouds with a respirator as an accessory, Maggie claims to have been born in 2030 and mysteriously transported to the present day to prepare a chosen few for an end-times civil war 45 years into the future. Lorna and Peter, both in search of direction, think they've found it in surreptitiously making a documentary exposing Maggie as a fraud. Co-written by director Zal Batmanglij and star Marling, Sound of My Voice has the hallmarks of the uninspired microbudget calling card. The bland, jittery visual "realism" can't counteract overheated performances of tin-eared dialogue, which strain for pulp but often land at soap. Still, an unusual ambition shines through: The film is interwoven with low-key, almost subliminal jokes about life in Los Angeles, and particularly the shadows of the entertainment industry populated by those whose main "talents" are a willingness to deceive and to believe. The 86-minute feature was originally conceived as a Web serial — which seems like a more natural format for Voice's episodic withhold/reward structure and lo-fi aesthetics. Within the realm of Web video, Sound of My Voice would be so much richer than its competition. But barely cinematic enough to fill the space of the big screen, the film ultimately feels like a teaser prologue for something that doesn't yet exist.

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Karina Longworth