Thursday, January 23, 2014

Movie Review: In a World

In a World
Directed by: Lake Bell.
Written by: Lake Bell.
Starring: Lake Bell (Carol), Rob Corddry (Moe), Alexandra Holden (Jamie), Eva Longoria (Herself), Ken Marino (Gustav), Demetri Martin (Louis), Fred Melamed (Sam), Tig Notaro (Cher), Nick Offerman (Heners), Michaela Watkins (Dani), Geena Davis (Katherine Huling).

Lake Bell’s In a World is a delightful comedy that like many debut films perhaps tries to cram a little too much in to its running time. There are a few too many characters, a few too many subplots that take the movie off course throughout its running time. But this is a minor complaint about an otherwise smart, funny movie – that has something real to say about sexism in Hollywood, but doesn’t beat you over the head with its message.

Bell wrote, directed and stars in the movie as Carol – a 31 year-old woman  still living at home with her father, Sam (Fred Melamed). Sam is a legendary voice over artist of movie trailers – famous in that small, Hollywood subset world. Carol wants to be a voice over artist as well – but as Sam tells her at every opportunity – “the industry does not want a female sound” for movie trailers. She also does work as a vocal coach – in a few hilarious scenes, she tries in vain to teach Eva Longoria (being a very good sport) a cockney accent, with little to no success.

Everything starts happening to Carol all at once – Sam decides he can no longer “enable” her and throws her out of the house. She moves in with her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) and her lovable dork husband Moe (Rob Corddry) – at the same time their marriage is about to be tested. Carol also starts a slow flirtation with a sound technician named Louis (Demetri Martin) – and yet also meets Gustav (Ken Marino) – the new big voice in voiceovers – and makes a mistake with him, at the same time as she ends up stealing a job from him because her voice is perfect for a new genre of trailer voice overs – romantic comedies for kids. At the same time, a new Quadrilogy called The Amazon Games is about to debut a new trailer – on which they are bringing the famed “In a world…” trailer line back from retirement for the first time since the death of Don Lafontaine, who made it so iconic. The producers want to hear Gustav, Sam and Carol all do the trailer before they decide which way to go.

As you can tell, there is a lot going on throughout In a World – and this doesn’t even mention Sam’s relationship with a woman younger than either of his daughters, the drunken exploits of a woman who works with Louis – or his other co-workers (Tig Notaro and Nick Offerman). The fact that Bell has so much going in the movie would be a bigger problem if not for the fact that almost all of it is enjoyable. Yes, the movie has too many tangents and subplots, and one offs, but they almost all work in their way, so while a tighter film may have been better, it’s hard to complain too much about what Bell does put in front of us.

The film marks Bell as someone to watch – both in front of and behind the camera. As an actress, she has a natural likability. She is sweet, funny and sexy in equal doses. She takes a character that could be annoying – the navel gazing, woman in her 30 who hasn’t quite grown up yet – and makes her sympathetic. I guess Bell figures if we can have countless overgrown man children, we can have a female example once in a while – and she’s correct. The various voices she makes throughout the movie are hilarious.

As a writer/director, she may be even more talented however. In a World is a film that has a definite point of view – about sexism in Hollywood, about the way women make themselves seem stupider to attract men and other gender issues, and yet the film never becomes overly preachy. They are woven organically into the plot of the movie.

It’s no secret that Hollywood still has a shameful under-representation among women in writing and directing roles. What Lake Bell has done with In a World is put herself in line with other talented female writer-directors like Lynn Shelton or Nicole Holofcener. It’s an excellent first effort – and marks her as someone to watch for in the future.

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