In a world where…wait, no. I can’t really start this review with “in a world,” can I? I imagine literally every review is going to read the same way – wait, I already did. Shit. Whatever, guess I’ll have to embrace it. What’s that? Yes, I know there’s a delete key – but I’ve come too far already.
In a world where female voice-over artists struggle to join the boy’s club such a profession has become, one heroic woman plans to stand up and let her majestic voice be heard. That woman is played by the funny and talented Lake Bell, who also serves as both writer (she won Best Screenplay at 2013’s Sundance Film Festival) and director for her first feature film In A World…, which features a who’s who of comedic talent and popular off-screen voices. Didn’t know the voice-over game was such a big deal? Neither did I, but now that the curtain has been pulled back, I want in.
Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) is a struggling voice-over artist/vocal coach who has been living in the shadow of her father Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed), one of the boldest voices in the game. With her life in a constant dream state where she becomes a famous voice-actress, she spends her time collecting samples and helping actresses like Eva Longoria master different voices like, for example, cockney slang – but has trouble hitting the big time herself. That is, of course, until she steals a children’s romantic comedy (that’s a genre?) trailer gig from hot-shot Gustav Warner (Ken Marino). Asserting herself as an up-and-coming force to be reckoned with, Carol has to face obstacles like sexism, family drama, jealousy, and backstabbing, but it’s all worth the fight for vocal glory. Can she stand up to people like her father and Gustav in an attempt to voice the trailer of an upcoming mega-blockbuster movie franchise that will attempt to revive the iconic phrase “In a world…” the legendary Don LaFontaine made so popular?
Lake Bell has long been filling the sidekick role for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, being recognizable from films like No Strings Attached and What Happens In Vegas (The League fans will recognize her as “The White Knuckler” though), but I’ve been waiting for her to take a strong lead as she does with Carol. If you’ve seen her work on Children’s Hospital, you know she already has a knack for voice-over work, but along with being so good at manipulating sound, she’s also an incredibly funny female comedian who can portray awkward quirkiness and deadpan monotony at the same time. Bell is a wonderfully talented actress and proves throughout In A World… that she’s more than capable of spearheading any leading role.
Bell is aided by a cast of fantastic supporting characters played by the likes of Nick Offerman, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Ken Marino, Michaela Watkins, Tig Notaro, and relative newcomer Stephanie Allynne. Offerman and Martin play sound-studio employees who are pulling for Carol to dethrone voice-over diva Gustav Warner, with Martin also serving as a love interest. It’s a solid role for Martin, only having to stay his typical awkward self, and Offerman scores laughs in his brash and boisterous way – which he does like no other. Marino of course plays the previously mentioned Gustav Warner, in another supporting role that’s only adding to his tremendous repertoire. I’m so glad he’s catching on more and more these days, because Marino is easily one of the most underrated comedic talents in Hollywood right now (go watch Party Down or Children’s Hospital if you don’t believe me).
Watkins and Corddry offer a family dynamic for Bell to riff off of, as Watkins plays her sister and Corddry plays her sister’s lover. While both bring a certain emotional level to the film, I found it a little hard to care about their cliched relationship problems, as the older couple display that stereotypical boredom that’s introduced by two random beautiful people interacting with them. I get why the story arc was there, but often wondered why we’d need a bummer moment to balance out Carol’s enthusiasm. Eh, what movie doesn’t create as much drama as possible though, right?
Despite the random attempts to toss our emotions around with relationship drama, In A World… has a pure heart beating deep down inside. Mixing in easily acceptable tones of feminism and equality, Bell’s script presents the theme of our male-dominated society through a medium that’s fresh and original. Have you ever seen a movie about the dirty wold of voice-acting? No, you haven’t, and that’s what gives Lake Bell’s film a vibrant pulse. There’s plenty of indie-inspired comedy and a strong female lead character we don’t mind rooting for, but most importantly, we’re brought into this secret world of off-camera talents and egos – one that’s mysterious and inviting.
We always rave about the people on camera, your typical pretty faces, but what about the people bringing trailers and commercials to life? Hell, what about the commercials you see over and over again that feature the same voice? Don’t you think they make just as significant of an impact as some Hollywood A-lister who scores one huge role you marvel over for a year? In A World… reveals the lives of those special people who bring life to some moving images, while showing the journey of one female underdog as she attempts to break down the barrier deeply-voiced men have built to keep her out. It’s a story about strength, will-power, and chasing dreams – and the people who try to keep you down. F#ck em’ though. We all have a voice, and each one is meant to be heard. Find your voice, and scream it from the mountain tops – don’t let anyone keep you silent.
In A World... is a brilliant first feature from writer/director Lake Bell, proving her talents go far beyond just being a hilarious sidekick to the stars.