In A World… – The battle of the voiceovers (and sexes) in Lake Bell’s debut comedy with heart

“In A World…” It’s hard to read those three words without hearing in your head, or even using, a deep, bass voice and imagining some epic film action occurring on a screen at the same time. That phrase was made famous by Don LaFontaine – the master of the trailer voiceover and of the “In A World…” phrase. And it is this that makes up the central premise of Lake Bell’s first feature script and directorial debut, aptly also called In A World… (2013) – a comedy about voiceovers, the people behind them and one woman’s struggle to try and break into that male-dominated industry.

Not much is happening in Carol’s (Lake Bell) world when we first meet her though. A 30-year-old vocal coach who still lives at her Dad’s house, the only joy she gets in life is finding new and interesting accents, which she obsessively tapes to collect and hopefully mimic. Carol has one dream in life though – she wants to become a voiceover artist like her father, the famous Sam Soto (Fred Melamed). She also wants to be the first woman to bring back the iconic three word trailer phrase for this generation, something her father thinks is ridiculous as he believes this world of movie voiceovers is in fact a man’s one. However when her Dad throws her out of the house so she can find her feet, a chance opportunity allows Carol to finally find her voice.

Lake Bell’s debut feature might have a strange premise, but it is also one of the funniest comedies you will see this year. Her script and characterisation is spot-on and hilarious throughout – outlandish while still remaining completely believable. Her dialogue is also superb and almost Aaron Sorkin-esque at times, flitting back and forth between characters at top speed and with absolute precision. Most importantly though, In A World… is a joy to watch from start to finish. Mostly this is due to Lake Bell herself as Carol. Finally breaking out from the usual secondary roles she plays into a well-deserved main actress role, she is able to prove herself as one of the greatest comedy performers of recent years. Her ability to get a laugh just from a simple facial expression – an eye-roll here, a furrowed brow there – is amazing. Bell also makes Carol a likeable character who we want to succeed – who we root for among this male-dominated industry.

That industry is represented by two bombastic main characters, Carol’s father Sam Soto (Melamed) and his protégé Gustav Warner (Ken Marino). Both Melamed and Marino are perfect in these eccentric roles: Marino is equal parts charming and creepy, while Melamed makes Soto just plain arrogant. A lot of the laughs in the film (when they’re not coming from Carol) come from their bizarre lifestyle, as well as their unreasoned fear of competition from new up-and-coming voice talent who might knock them off the top spot, especially if that happens to be a woman…

Alongside Marino and Melamed (and of course Bell) the other characters in the film also keep this watchable and funny. And all are pleasingly well-rounded characters, whether they be major or minor roles (which also makes for plenty of fab cameos from the likes of Nick Offerman, Alexandra Holden, Stephanie Allynne, etc.). Demetri Martin excels in a main role as the likeable, kooky Louis who works at the recording studio and who wants to help Carol find her voice in the industry. Bell and Martin also work brilliantly whenever they’re in a scene together. They have perfect chemistry and create a sweet and realistic (and hilarious) relationship between the two characters.

However at a completely different end of the spectrum is Michaela Watkins and Rob Corddry as Carol’s sister Dani and her brother-in-law Moe, whose straining marriage appears to be in big trouble. Watkins and Corddry are two actors most often seen in straight-out comedy films or TV shows, so here it is wildly refreshing (and unexpected) to see them as quality actors who are part of something much more melancholy and touching. Not that Corddry and Watkins don’t both have their own hilarious moments too, but the added emotion that they lend to the story really makes the film poignant. It also shows that Bell isn’t afraid to explore realistic and heart-rendering situations in her writing/directing – to counteract the humour with the sad. And this is one of the reasons In A World… stands out in a big, big world of other recent comedy movies.

In A World… is one of those rare films – a comedy that can make you laugh-out-loud, but that can also be incredibly moving at parts. Bell’s clever combination of this and her precise characterisation of outlandish but realistic people, make this a memorable comedy with a big heart. It also can’t be denied that the entire premise of the voiceover world is hilarious to watch, as well as an interesting new idea. It is also refreshing to see Bell highlighting ideas of sexism in the industry, not just in the voiceover community, but in the film/TV/media industry in general. She shows Carol’s (as well as her own) struggle to make her voice heard in a world populated by powerful men and (correctly) makes a point of trying to fix it. Maybe after seeing In A World… more people will realise this inequality still exists, as well as realise that Lake Bell’s own voice, and her impressive writing and directorial skills, all mark her as an exciting filmmaker to take note of and look out for in the future.

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~ by square-eyed-geek on October 2, 2013.

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