Film review: Brilliant writing, directing shine in this world

Film review: Brilliant writing, directing shine in this world
Lake Bell writes and stars in the new comedy "In A World..." now in theaters. Photo by Seamus Tierney

An inspiring and earnest comedy about finding your voice and living your life despite the challenges you face, “In a World…” is a brilliant writing, directing and producing debut for star Lake Bell. 

Struggling vocal coach Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) lives in both the house and the shadow of her father, Sam Soto (Fred Melamed), the undisputed king of the male-dominated world of voice-overs, particularly movie trailers. But with the help of sound engineer/friend Louis (Demetri Martin), she succeeds in landing her first voice-over gig, beating self-proclaimed industry bad boy Gustav Warner (Ken Marino) in the process.

It’s not until Gustav and Carol have a one-night stand together at a party that he learns she is the one who “robbed” him of the V.O. job and sets his sights on beating her. And on top of that, Sam realizes Carol is being considered for the official voice of an upcoming female-centered blockbuster quadrilogy. Unwilling to embrace his daughter’s recent success due to his ego, he enters the race as well.

One of the greatest strengths of “In a World…” is the inherent nature of its sense of humor, having a life of its own in every facet of the characters’ lives.

Half of the time we see these quirky and dysfunctional persons saying things they don’t intend to be funny when they’re engaging in normal conversation, yet the audience thinks otherwise and gets a laugh out of it.

Other moments involve Carol and Sam speaking to both strangers and friends in a variety of accents and dialects, with hilarious results. It’s amusing how a sense of humor can work its way into someone’s speech patterns, and its effects can either be felt consciously or unconsciously.

Of course, this film wouldn’t have a well-developed humorous personality if it weren’t for a killer screenplay.

Not only does the dialogue exude vivacity from scene to scene, but the story also has a passion for the world it seeks to shed light upon. Empowerment doesn’t come easy for Carol as she spars with her father to be entertainment’s next “voice of God,” and neither does highlighting the nitty-gritty of the understated world of voice-overs. In the end, though, the audience is sure to enjoy the manner in which the events work themselves out for the better.

By the way, anyone who has an obsession with trailer voice-overs, as well as voice acting in general, will get their money’s worth out of “In a World…” It’s about time this little known and overlooked subdivision of the entertainment industry receives the attention it deserves, and this film does it justice in the most fitting manner. If only the legendary Don LaFontaine were still alive, he’d be proud of something bearing his famous phrase.

As a first-time writer, director, and producer, Lake Bell handles each of these duties with fluid execution; whoever wishes to be a filmmaker with a flair for multitasking should look to her for inspiration. Her lead performance deserves equal attention as well; I enjoyed how she instilled wit, energy and strength in Carol with confidence, and to see her character want to prove herself for reasons moviegoers can relate to is her greatest quality.

In addition, we have Bell to thank for including such a diverse supporting cast. Fred Melamed revels in his hard-earned professional glory while at the same time dealing with insecurities of his own. Demetri Martin has charm and sensibility as Carol’s co-worker/friend Louis. Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, and Rob Corddry also receive their fair share of moments to shine, causing us to laugh at their antics and empathize with their plights at the same time.

If the art of voice acting and a quirky comedy with plenty of heart to spare are your thing, then you should definitely take a close look at “In a World…”

 

MPAA rating: R for language including some sexual references.

Running time: 1 hour and 33 minutes

Playing: Limited release

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