Lake Bell finds the funny in voice-over movie: In a World... makes even Eva Longoria entertaining
In a world where talented but underemployed people often become multitaskers to control their own destiny . . . Lake Bell has given herself a world-class showcase, and created something hugely entertaining in the bargain, by writing, directing and starring in… In a World…
Even if you recall her scene-stealing turns in What Happens in Vegas and It’s Complicated . . . even if you’ve been amused by her antics in the cable series Children’s Hospital . . . you won’t be prepared for her pitch-perfect performance in this wise and witty dramedy.
She triumphs over adversity . . . defies conventionality . . . strikes a blow for non-sexist rationality . . .
Like many of the better screen comedies, In a World… is at heart a coming-of-age story about a character who gradually, sometimes painfully, emerges out of arrested adolescence.
And if you’ve ever wondered about the folks who spout such hyperbolic come-ons for a living on every other movie trailer you’ve ever seen . . . well, you’ll have even more reason to sing Lake Bell’s praises for In a World… (showing at Sundance Cinemas in Houston).
Bell smartly cast herself — and wrote some very funny dialogue for herself — as Carol Solomon, a struggling thirtysomething voice-over artist, who’s still living at home with her father, Sam (Fred Melamed), a living legend in the world of voice-over artistry, and feeling more than a little uncomfortable and intimidated while in his imposing shadow.
Dad is the worst sort of overbearing egotist — that is, the kind who assumes he is irresistibly charming even while he’s at his most selfish — but grant him this: He indirectly shakes Carol out of her day-to-day drudgery of complacency and underachievement when he tells her it’s time to move out of his place. To be sure, he does this for typically self-serving reasons — he wants Carol out of the way so his much younger girlfriend (Alexandra Holden) can move in — but the eviction serves not only as a means to propel the plot, but also as additional incentive for Carol to push even harder to establish herself in a field traditionally dominated by men like her father.
And, not incidentally, like Gustav Werner (Ken Marino), Sam’s evident heir apparent in the world of voice-overing, a preening cad whose charms make him unfortunately irresistible, briefly, to Carol.
Movie Characters Galore
Like many (if not most) of the better screen comedies these days, In a World… is at heart a coming-of-age story about a character who gradually, sometimes painfully, emerges out of arrested adolescence. But even though Carol is a captivating and fascinating lead character, and even though Bell the actor plays her with immensely appealing charm and an impressive arsenal of comedic skills, Bell the writer-director is too savvy and generous a filmmaker to make Carol the sole focus in In a World…
Among the well-cast and vividly drawn satellites in Carol’s orbit: Dani (Michaela Watkins), Carol’s sister, who’s just discontent enough with her predictable life to consider an assignation with a guest at the hotel where she works; Moe (Rob Corddry), Dani’s supportive but unexciting husband, whose reaction to his wife’s contemplation of infidelity provides one of the movie’s most potent emotional impacts; Louis (Demetri Martin), a sound engineer who’s sweet on Carol, but too nice a guy to immediately make his intentions known; and Eva Longoria, who’s a tremendously good sport about playing . . . well, herself.
In a World… persuasively depicts various specifics of the world where Sam is a god, Gustav is an ascending star, and Carol would settle for being gainfully employed. (In addition to detailing voice-over work for trailers, the film also includes glimpses at similar voice-overing for commercials and video games, and vocal coaching for actors who should really think twice about attempting accents.) The quirks and competitiveness of this world seem as real — and as engaging — as the idiosyncrasies and aspirations of the characters who populate it.
In other words: Chalk up In a World… as a triumph on both sides of the cameras for Lake Bell.
In a world where indie filmmakers still take the personal approach to the publicizing their pictures.. Lake Bell visited Houston a few weeks ago to promote In a World… She introduced a preview screening at the Sundance Cinemas, then stuck around for a Q&A hosted by a fellow who, as you will see in this video, probably will never land his own voiceover gig, in this or any other world.