What a completely delightful surprise the film “In a World” was. Set in the very specific and small world of Hollywood voice-overs, I thought it would be one of those stories where the people who are deeply involved with certain obscure pursuits are mocked for their single-mindedness.
On the contrary, the voice-over scene was just an interesting and unusual context for a thoroughly engaging story of one young woman’s personal and professional struggles.
Actress Lake Bell wrote, directed and stars as Carol, a young woman struggling to make ends meet as a vocal coach, whose real dream is to be a voiceover actor like her father, a vain and misogynistic legend in the business. Plucky and charming, Bell’s character catches a few breaks, but soon finds herself stymied by deep-seated sexism.
The title refers to the over used phrase that begins so many film trailers, “In A World…” where, whatever the plot of the film is. The phrase has supposedly been retired along with its most famous – and of course male – speaker, Don La Fontaine, but a “Hunger Games” style quadrilogy is rumored to be bringing it back and potentially allowing a female to utter it.
When Carol’s talent puts her in the running, those that should be her greatest supporters work against her to maintain the voice-over status quo.
For me, the title also refers to the world that the talented Ms. Bell creates for her a story – one that is largely unknown, totally interesting, and never overwhelming of the characters.
I appreciate a beautiful actress who can create a role for herself having nothing to do with her looks. This wasn’t a vehicle for Bell’s hotness, but a winning and funny comedy peopled with fully-realized supporting roles as well.
Carol’s relationship with her sister and her sister’s husband fill the story out beautifully. Her father (Fred Melamed) is a bombastic standout, and her relationship with him competes with her charming and understated romance as the most important element of the film.
It’s hard to find a movie about sexism, or any other “–ism” that isn’t preachy, but this film is too busy telling you a funny story to teach you a lesson. It’s simply a fact that very few women read the voiceovers for Hollywood film trailers, and Bell imagines a character whose professional life hinges on this fact. She doesn’t set out to win a victory for her gender necessarily; she just wants to do a job that she’s great at.
Meanwhile, a warm and affectionate relationship between her and her sister gives us so many important details about the over-the-top man that is their father. This is just another example of the nice balance Bell creates in her film which benefits from her generosity as a writer, giving screen time to amusing actors like Dimitri Martin, Rob Corddry, Ken Marino and Nick Offerman, instead of just focusing on making sure the camera captures her best side. Her “best side” is captured though the funny, idiosyncratic and well-observed performance that brought this unusual and unusually well-conceived story to the screen.