In a World…
Lake Bell, Rob Corddry, Alexandra Holden, Eva Longoria, Ken Marino, Demetri Martin, Fred Melamed, Tig Notaro, Nick Offerman, Michaela Watkins, Geena Davis
R for language including some sexual references
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A genial glimpse into the world of voice-over acting gives In a World… a unique hook with which actor-writer-director Lake Bell can flourish and excite even while sticking closely to genre tropes.
After the death of longtime voice legend Don LaFontaine whose iconic “In a World…” phrasing became synonymous with movie trailers, new attention was cast on a frequently underappreciated realm of voice-over performance, a profession that required not only a definitive speaking voice, but which required more than a modicum of acting talent. The industry, especially for film trailers, has been heavily geared towards male voice work, which gives Bell’s feature writing/directing debut notable impact.
It follows Carol Solomon (Bell), a vocal coach competing with longtime rival and ex-boyfriend Gustav Warner (Ken Marino) to land a lucrative trailer gig for a new film called The Amazon Games, a role that will be revealed by the film’s producer (a surprise cameo that shouldn’t be ruined) at the annual Golden Trailer Awards where her father Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed) is due to receive a lifetime achievement award.
In a World… explores the male-dominated trailer voice industry where one woman must overcome the challenges and secure a lucartive assignment while competing with more experienced and more recognizable names and voices. Bell’s writing is simple, but sharp, cutting through the medium like a surgeon’s scalpel finding humor through adversity. The side adventures of Carol’s sister (Michaela Watkins) and brother-in-law (Rob Corddry) are a slight drag on the film, but the budding romance with her sound recording friend (Demetri Martin) add humanity to the screenplay.
Bell’s performance is sharp, engaging and unflappable, quickly securing the audience’s favor while building a character that is quirky, determined and frustrated without coming off arrogant or unnecessarily neurotic. Melamed, who is a noted voice-over talent outside the film, and Marino are mildly two-dimensional with edges of a third dimension brought out by Bell’s screenplay with only a modicum of assistance from the actors.
The film is fairly conventional, moving from scene to scene with customary deliberance, laying out a simplistic series of story arcs that largely shift in expected directions. The final act has a few interesting departures from expectations, including a bathroom “pep talk” that set the film in place as one that won’t uniformly change the medium, but which might help showcase a troubling trend in the race to replace LaFontaine.
It will be fascinating to see where Bell takes her career. In a World… is a strong start for her outside the acting medium and if she can adjusted and improve based on this effort, a successful career should follow.
July 7, 2014