When A Voice Shouldn’t Echo

Ann Billson wishes that more filmmakers would adopt less redundant voiceovers:

The most irritating thing about The Great Gatsby (which I mostly enjoyed) was Tobey Maguire’s voice-over. “He had the kind of smile that seemed to believe you, and understand you as you wanted to be believed and understood,” says Tobey over a shot of Leonardo DiCaprio giving us exactly that kind of smile. And then, later, “Gatsby looked in that moment as if he had killed a man,” Tobey says over an image of DiCaprio looking – yes! – exactly like someone who had killed a man.

As the popular screenwriting slogan has it, “Show – don’t tell.” Just because the story is told from one character’s point of view doesn’t mean you have to hear that character’s voice blathering in your ear all the time – look at Chinatown. Voice-over narration is pointless when it’s adding nothing to what we can already see for ourselves, but it does have its uses.

She runs through many examples and embeds several YouTube clips. More embedded examples on her blog.