The first time I remember seeing Lake Bell was in the film Over Her Dead Body – the Eva Longoria comedy with a supernatural element. I thought that she was the best part of the entire movie, a beautiful actress who could deliver comedy. She has been in different films over the last few years, but her new writing/directing first feature is In a World…
The phrase “In a world…” was used in trailers for years. When the voice actor Don LaFontaine died, the phrase died. In a World… the film, is a comedy/drama in the world of voiceover artists. Carol (Lake Bell) is a vocal coach and artist who struggles to break in the voiceover world. Her father Sam (Fred Melemed) is one of the kings of the industry with a thick, full baritone vocal instrument. Dad also has a girlfriend who is Carol’s age.
Carol lives in the shadow of her father and in a very male dominated niche industry. Gustav (Ken Marino) is the heir apparent to the majority of the gigs. He is a pompous, self-centered man who lives in a giant mansion that is almost as large as his ego.
The big voiceover gig is for a Hunger Games style set of features. The rumor is that they are going to bring back “In a world…” as a part of the advertising campaign. It is the best role for a voice over artist and Carol wants a shot at the trailer.
Added into the plot are Moe (Rob Corddry) and Dani (Michaela Watkins). Dani and Carol are sisters. Moe works in the industry and Dani works at a hotel. They are married but she is tempted by a guest at the hotel. Carol wants a copy of the guest’s Scottish brogue and gets Dani to meet with him. It only complicates her sister’s marriage.
Carol works in a recording studio with Louis (Demetri Martin). He has a crush on Carol but is afraid to act upon it. All the groups are invited to a Hollywood party and things get even more complicated. Carol ends up sleeping with Gustav, not knowing they are up for the same voice over work. The story of In a World… is of how these elements tie together in a competition to land the honored gig. Also in the mix is Dad getting a life-time achievement award at a voiceover awards show.
Most of the actors work together in Childrens Hospital, the Adult Swim show on Cartoon Network. The comfort between them is apparent. They play off each other much the same way improv comics do. It is natural and flowing banner that works.
Rob Corddry is a comic force who stole the show in Hot Tub Time Machine. This role is a bit more subdued but winsome. He does get a few moments of comedy but the forte of this work is to be the doting and devoted husband who questions his relationship. Michaela Watkins has a much more interesting role as the tempted wife. Their dynamic is the true backbone of the film and the more interesting side story.
This film is filled with major actors in small roles. While the film progresses, there are cameos by such major hitters as Geena Davis and Eva Longoria (to name a few). It is fun to pick-out the celebrities in the background and foreground.
More than anything, this is a calling card for Lake Bell. She is the writer/director/star of the work and the main reason to see In a World… This is a very small budget film that looks better than most major features. As a director, Lake Bell does a good job of keeping the pace and capturing both comedy and pathos that the material requires.
The only true problem with the film is the lack of focus in the screenplay. Even though it runs a scant 1 1/2 hours, it is all over the place. The production needed to have more on a concentration of either one story, or the other story, or even the other-other story. By putting so much into the world of this narrative it makes for a weaker screen work.
In a World… is a solid debut feature that suggests a strong future career for Lake Bell. Even though she does great behind the camera, I still hope she stays in front of the lens. She is amazing performer who is just now spreading her cinematic wings.