Sometimes, if done right, films can open up your eyes to these little, unseen worlds happening all around us. IN A WORLD is just such one, an indie gem written, produced, directed by and starring Lake Bell about a woman trying to make it in the “Man’s World” field of movie voiceovers. How many times have you heard that deep male voice ask over the latest trailer, “In a world, where demons reigned supreme…”?
Well, this lovely comedy gets all the details right, allowing the audience to be a fly-on-the-wall as we watch Bell navigate the recording studios that make up her business. Bell plays Carol, a vocal coach whose father (a wonderfully pompous performance by Fred Melamed, so great in A SERIOUS MAN) is one of the best movie trailer voiceover artist in the business. Thinking his daughter should stick to accents instead of pursuing Daddy’s jobs, he instead mentors Gustav (a terrific Ken Marino, who gets to look sexy after a string of doofus roles) for next-big-thing vocal stardom. From there, it gets complicated, with a large cast more than up to the task. Michaela Watkins, wasted on Saturday Night Live, shows her range here as the bitter, angry sister who goes to great lengths to help Bell advance. It’s through this relationship and an unexpectedly sweet run-in with a baby-voiced young woman that the theme of sisterhood reveals itself, adding a resonant layer to a film which could have easily gone the route of “inside baseball”.
Bell gets the rhythms right in the way family members often tolerate each other instead of truly communicating. Like the wolf spider that eats its young, Bell’s father is the type who would back a Fisher Dolly over his daughter if it means he’ll more easily book his next job. It’s a tough business, what can I say?
Technical credits are unpretentious and “just right”. Seamus Tierney’s cinematography keeps things simple and realistic. He’s been a true up-and-comer in the indie world recently, and this film should give him a boost. Same for newbie Megan Fenton’s production design, which makes these worlds look perfectly lived-in and messy, except for Ken Marino’s mansion, which is a bit over-the-top, but so are many successful people in the film biz. Clearly made on a tight budget, the film feels perfectly small-scale in a really good way. There’s real craft on display here.
It’s rare that a feminist comedy such as this doesn’t feel strident, or that a story about Hollywood doesn’t feel condescending or for hipsters only. Bell is a quadruple threat here, excelling in all of her jobs in this film. IN A WORLD feels true, edgy, and kind. Not bad for a film set in a shark tank.
IN A WORLD opens today at select theaters.
Glenn Gaylord is an award-winning Writer/Director/Producer and graduate of the UCLA School of Film and Television.