(1998 Drama, Comedy, Music, Rated M)
UNHERALDED and unexpected came a little voice that cried out to be heard and demands to be seen.
It belongs to Jane Horrocks, that delirious bit of bubble and squeak from TV's Ab Fab in a performance so miraculous that all at once she captures not only the magic and misery of Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Edith Piaf, but also their voices.
LV is a pathetic thing, "a little bird trapped in the rafters" of a tumble-down fire-trap, never uttering a peep, except to sing as the legends sing, while her monstrous motor-mouth of a mother, Mari (Brenda Blethyn), howls obscenities from downstairs.
Only the memories of LV's dear, departed dad and scratchy recordings of the world's best-loved voices keep her from going mad.
Oozing onto her perch is Ray Say (Michael Caine), a sleazy talent stalker into flash jewellery, sharp cars and heavy debt who sees the little sparrow as pounds, shillings and sustenance.
When Say lures the sad, shy girl onto the stage with soft, sly words the film seems destined for backstage cliché, but it spins away when trust is betrayed.
As a rough diamond with a heart of flint, Caine relishes his juiciest part in years.
It earned him a Golden Globe, but he is matched by Blethyn as the blowsy bit of white trash both crass and cruel who finally learns a few home truths.
Ewan McGregor appears not as effectively as he did in Moulin Rouge as the heroine's white knight.
Little Voice is a film about loneliness, loyalty and comeuppance.
It isn't A Star Is Born and nor does it try to be, but make no mistake, a star is born.
Her name is Jane Horrocks: she was best known as Bubble until she burst into song.
* * * * *
Trivia: Ewan McGregor's character was not in the original play.
Available on Stan and to rent on You Tube and Prime. Rotten Tomatoes rating 79%.
**** Pushover (1954, B&W, Fred MacMurray). Classic film noir. Free on You Tube.