In a World...
Directed by Lake Bell
An underachieving vocal coach is motivated by her father, the king of movie-trailer voice-overs, to pursue her aspirations of becoming a voice-over star. Amidst pride, sexism and family dysfunction, she sets out to change the voice of a generation.
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★★★½ review by Esteban Gonzalez on Letterboxd
"This Wednesday, one woman will teach another woman to sound a little less retarded."
Lake Bell starred, directed, and wrote the screenplay for this quirky romantic comedy which doesn't follow the normal standards of a genre film and at times feels like it's all over the place, but the awkward and goofy humor really worked for me. The kind of humor in In a World isn't for everyone, but I had a blast because I have a similar weird sense of humor like this. Bell was great in this film and I really liked her goofy character, she was charming. I had a lot of fun with this story and enjoyed all the quirky characters, but despite all the goofiness the film does make a statement about sexism in the film industry. Perhaps it is a bit heavy handed in the way it hammers the issue over and over again but the satire of Hollywood and all the back stabbings involved in the business worked extremely well for me. This screwball comedy is a bit ambitious but it works thanks to some charming performances and a tender romantic backstory.
The film opens with a tribute to the now deceased Don LaFontaine (who was the king of movie trailer voice-overs) through archival interview footage. In the interview Don's close friend and also a voice-over artist, Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed), is sharing his memories with the legend who coined the phrase "in a world" at the beginning of most of the movie trailers he lent his voice to. The other person interviewed is Don's son, Gustav (Ken Marino), who has inherited his father's empire and follows his foot steps as well. Sam has also been mentoring Gustav who he considers to be the future of the voice-over world. We are then introduced to Sam's daughter, Carol (Lake Bell), who has been working as a voice coach for other actors helping them on their accents and dialects. Carol doesn't make enough money to live on her own so she moves in with her sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins) who is married with Moe (Rob Corddry). Her life turns around when she agrees to do a voice-over gig that a young shy kid named Louis (Demetri Martin) offers her. Louis runs a sound mixing studio along with Heners (Nick Offerman) named Sound Mix-A-Lot. Carol does her job so well that she quickly begins getting more offers and all of a sudden has become a threat in the male dominated voice-over profession, competing against her father and Don's son.
Lake Bell is charismatic and her character has a lot of spark in this film which allows her to carry the movie despite being all over the place at times with different subplots. She is easy to route for in a male dominated world which she is about to interfere with. The story has many awkward moments which I found silly, but charming. She had great chemistry with Demetri Martin and their romantic story was more tender than what we usually see in a Hollywood rom-com. In a World is unbalanced at times, but the individual performances make each turn worth it. Nick Offerman and Rob Corddry were great in their secondary roles and they gave the film that extra spark that was needed. There were also some entertaining cameos. Lake Bell's solid work here leaves me interested in her upcoming projects because she has proved she has talent and a voice that should be heard.
★★★★ review by Keith on Letterboxd
In a word...fantastic. Doesn't have monumental ambitions, but is very witty, there is a sweet indie-movie courtship, some dramatic moments have real pathos, and has a couple of really funny set-up and callback jokes.
★★★★ review by TajLV on Letterboxd
What a wonderfully strong directorial debut for Lake Bell. Not only did she direct this comedic behind-the-scenes look at the "voiceover business," she also wrote the script, starred as the lead actress and served as one of the producers.
The story follows the rise of vocal coach Carol Solomon (Bell), who for 31 years has lived in the shadow of her self-consumed father Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed). It starts with a nod to the late, great, real-life Don LaFontaine (1940~2008), whose smooth baritone will be forever associated with epic movie trailers and the words, "In a world...." Carol gets the opportunity to become LaFontaine's heir apparent by voicing the trailer for a new quadrilogy called "The Amazon Games." But is Hollywood ready for a female in this role? At least one person, her father, thinks not.
Bell's first feature film works as a comedy, a drama and a message movie that should inspire more female actors to get on the other side of the camera. Her keen understanding of women and the workplace is especially useful in showing us Carol's relationship with her hotel-concierge sister Dani (Michaela Watkins), Dani's relationship with her computer-geek husband Moe (Rob Corddry), and Carol's fumbling forays into dating wealthy competitor Gustav (Ken Marino) and audio jockey Louis (Demetri Martin). Cameos by Eva Longoria and Geena Davis are well utilized, too.
Bell also succeeds in raising minor female characters up from subservience and ridicule, whether it's a Russian housekeeper or a lost Valley girl with an annoying voice. Indeed, it is Sam's trophy girlfriend Jamie (Alexandra Holden) who delivers the most surprising, effective and applause-worthy lines of the movie during the "Trailer Awards" sequence. But there is a sacrifice made. One can't help but notice the complete absence of any mothers or children. Something to think about?
As the credits rolled, I found myself almost wishing Bell had chosen the Annie Lennox feminist anthem "Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves" as the the closing music. On the other hand, the entire film is making the same statement. As the voice over for the quadrilogy puts it: "In a world where mankind has been replaced by womankind...."
★★★★ review by sydney on Letterboxd
i do have some big issues with this (too many white people, some undermining of women which lends to the sort of "only non-feminine white chicks allowed" attitude in feminism that has gone on way too long, and what the hell geena davis scene?) but i do think this is an important movie, and at least a small step in the right direction. i'd be lying if i said it didn't sting to see so many dudes shrug it off as inconsequential or dismiss it for being imperfect, when i see so many worse male-driven movies get a pass for their flaws. it was important to me, and it touched me, it was funny and quirky in a way that felt natural. i will watch it again, and i will laugh and cry again, and i will wish it was a little bit better but accept it for what it is.
★★★½ review by Tasha Robinson on Letterboxd
Slight but funny and sweet story of a woman trying to break into the voiceover industry in imitation of her famous voiceover-artist dad, an arrogant egotist who gives her no support and no slack. Slightly annoying at times in that she's the female version of a selfish manchild (a womanchild?) who wants all the benefits of adulthood without any of the responsibility, and she can't seem to manage her professional life, her personal life, or her sex life. But the plot arc is interesting, and there are plenty of terrific comedians with plenty of comic business—Nick Offerman, Tig Notaro, and Rob Corddry among them—and it all moves along very quickly and lightly, without the kind of self-importance that would deflate it. A lot of fun.
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