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Little Voice: Worth Searching For


America doesn't know Jane Horrocks, but she's a star among English theatergoers and deservedly so. Her performance as Little Voice's LV is powerful, vulnerable and altogether perfect.

Little Voice is based on the Jim Cartwright play written especially for Horrocks, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. Written and directed by Mark Herman, Little Voice tells the tale of a painfully shy, almost mute speck of a girl who comes alive when she listens to recordings of Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Bassey.

LV so fully inhabits the souls of these women that when she sings their songs, she does it in their voices with their mannerisms. We've all seen Judy Garland impersonators, but this is more. When Horrocks sings (and it is her singing), we witness an amazing transformation. Once timid and shy, she becomes bold, audacious and even flirty -- all in the voice and style of these women.

We're not sure how LV got the way she is, but it must have something to do with her mother, Mari (Brenda Blethyn). Where LV is timid and quiet, Mari is crude, loud and talkative. Blethyn turns in an amazing performance. When Blethyn steps in front of the camera, you can't stop looking at her, much as you might want to turn away.

Michael Caine, as a down on his luck promoter, Ray, "courts" Mari and, in the process, discovers LV's unique talent. Sleazy and pathetic, Ray sees LV as his ticket to the life he's dreamed of and will do and say almost anything to realize this dream. Caine has never been better.

Thrown into this mix is Ewan McGregor as the shy telephone repairman who takes a fancy to LV. McGregor delivers a fine performance as the one human being, other than LV's dead father, who actually listens to her.

Little Voice may take some searching for, but it's worth the search. In Little Voice, Horrocks, Blethyn and Caine give three of the best performances of the year.

Joan Fuchsman

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