In A World... (2013) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for language including sexual references
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Lake Bell, Michaela Watkins, Fred Melamed, Rob Corddry, Ken Marino, Demetri Martin, Nick Offerman, Alexandra Holden, Tig Notaro, Stephanie Allynne
Small role: Eva Longoria, Geena Davis, Cameron Diaz, Jeff Garlin
Director: Lake Bell
Screenplay: Lake Bell
Review published September 7, 2013
Although women have made many inroads into showing they can be just as successful as men in various occupations, In A World... shows us that there is still one that mystifyingly is still dominated by men: voice-over narration for movie trailers.
Nevertheless, that doesn't dissuade vocal talent Carol Solomon (Bell, No Strings Attached), daughter of veteran voice-over talent Sam Soto (Melamed, The Dictator), from trying to find her way into the very exclusive club of those lucky men doing it. While most of the general public don't know or don't care about the talent behind the voices, to the Hollywood movie system, these narrators make millions just for a few carefully enunciated words. The right pitch can lead many people who watch trailers before every theatrically released to take notice of a film they might not otherwise have been amped to see. One in particular inspires the title of the film, which gets its name from the trademark opening words of the late Don "Voice of God" LaFontaine, who can be heard as the voice of over five-thousand movie trailers and countless TV spots, until his death in 2008.
Carol, who has spent time utilizing her vocal talent in the field of voice coaching and dialect-tweaking for ADR dubbing, is a relative newbie in the business. She suddenly finds herself shooting to the top when she is slated as the voice to be used for the upcoming trailers of a franchise quadrilogy based on a wildly popular series of books for girls (think The Hunger Games). This doesn't sit well with the guy she's stolen the gig from, Gustav Warner (Marino, Role Models), with whom she has a dalliance while in attendance at a party put on by the golden-voiced performer. It also certainly bristles Gustav's mentor, who just so happens to be Sam, Carol's nonplussed and clearly unsupportive father, who nixes his retirement plans in order to try to keep her from instant success.
Lake Bell not only stars in In A World... but she also serves, for the first time in her career, as writer, director, and producer, and in all respects, she emerges through like she's been at it for years. She definitely has the voice to believe she could make it as a vocal talent, and the acting chops to imbue her character with the personality to carry a film mostly on her shoulders. Bell gives us so many richly defined, comical characterizations, that we're willing to forgive the meandering plot line, as we come to like Carol's family, friends and colleagues at work in a way that could make for an entertaining sitcom, were this to be a pilot. Bell is also able to secure a good cast of acting talent to fill out the various roles, who all offer nuance to even the smallest of roles in order to generate quality laughs or thoughtful drama whenever the scenes call for it.
At 93 minutes, it doesn't outstay its welcome, but Bell does put in a few character touches that could have been excised if time were more of an issue. There is at least one major subplot that may make one wonder why so much time is spent exploring it, as it has little to do with Carol's story arc, and nothing to do with voice-over industry. It involves Carol's sister, Dani (Watkins, The Back-Up Plan), who works as a hotel concierge and some issues that emerge when a handsome bachelor staying at her hotel makes a play for her that kinda-sorta leads Dani to dabbling with crossing a line in her marriage with a schmoe named Moe (Corddry, Warm Bodies). In a more minor development, there is also an admirer for Carol in the form of an introverted sound engineer named Louis (Martin, Contagion), and his mostly half-hearted attempts to get her to go out with him.
But the same thing could be said for your average Woody Allen film, which many viewers will find In A World... reminiscent of (particularly with the inclusion of 1980s Allen alum Fred Melamed). Bell uses every opportunity to show Melamed with his shirt off, though that's not necessarily for eye candy, as Melamed is a massive-bodied, hirsute bear of an older man, though, comically, not without his share of attractive female admirers; he has a hot young 30-year-old girlfriend set to move in with him at the beginning of the film, which means Carol has to move out.
Though it does take some time before In A World... hits its stride, it is Bell's commitment to her fine-tuned characterizations and acute observations on an industry largely unknown to the general public that make the satirical elements pay off down the road. The appeal may hit home more with folks who follow the movie industry, but lovers of character-driven indie comedies will also likely be on board. Even though In A World... may not change the lock men have on the voice-over movie trailer industry, the quality of Lake Bell's film proves she may hold a dominant voice in the film world itself for years to come.
©2013 Vince Leo