Sundance '13: Exceptional But Familiar, Charming Comedy 'In a World'
by Ethan Anderton
January 28, 2013
The world of movie trailers has never really been the same since the man with the golden voiceover, Don LaFontaine, passed away years ago. In fact, voiceover is used quite sparingly in movie trailers nowadays in favor of text bumpers. This is something that hasn't gone unnoticed by actress and filmmaker Lake Bell, and she puts this niche part of the film industry in the center of In a World..., a romantic comedy that while familiar, still has plenty of charm, laughs and a subtle but relevant feminine message from a rising female talent. And it all begins when an aspiring voice actress (Bell) is kicked out of the house by her father (Fred Melamed), at the top of his voiceover game and ready to pass the torch, but not to his daughter.
Carol is struggling to get back on her feet and scraping by with a job as a vocal coach and tutor, her latest gig teaching Eva Longoria to sound more like a cockney mob wife and less like she's "retarded." But on this day, she gets bad news when her voiceover king father decides to have his young, perky girlfriend (Alexandra Holden) move in with him, leaving Carol on the streets. And so Carol must live with her sister (Michaela Watkins) and husband (Rob Corddry) as she tries to land some more voice jobs. Thankfully, recording studio employee and love interest Louis (Demetri Martin) is there to help her land a major trailer voiceover gig, swiping it from rising vocal star Gustav (Ken Marino). It's time for a female voice to shake this world up as the retired voiceover line "In a world..." is being brought back to honor LaFontaine.
What unfolds from here has been played out in several romantic comedies before, but this unique setting allows for some great jokes, especially for those more familiar with the entertainment industry. From an unlikely romance between voiceover adversaries to a jealous and competitive father, there's plenty of lighthearted fun to be had as Carol tries to make a name for herself in the movie trailer voiceover world. Bell's natural charisma helps sell the film as more than what it seems, as does the script which she also wrote herself, which includes a lot of poignant talk about the position of females, not just in this niche world, but in the entertainment industry as a whole.
In addition, there's also a pressing subplot that almost could have been its own romantic comedy as Carol's sister and her husband have some marital issues. They're a little bit distracting from In a World..., and almost feel like they were used to pad out a derivative and somewhat thin premise, but the laughs and authentic relationships are enough to help overlook this flaw. Bell's voiceover talents, including various accents and dialects, are surprisingly great, as is the same kind of work from Marino and Melamed. Bell more than proves her worth in this arena, and makes a valid case for women to be considered as movie trailer voiceover talents.
In addition to a smart, witty script, there's also plenty of great cameos to keep audiences surprised and laughing. Really, the entire cast of comedians surrounding Bell is what makes this film so enjoyable, and helps sell it as a crowd-pleasing romantic comedy. Bell has rounded up some great talent to bring this story to life, and a movie trailer voiceover artist who just happened to be in the crowd at Sundance confirmed that she pretty much nailed the universe that these behind-the-scenes talents inhabit. Does it feel a little bit cheesy at times? Absolutely, but Bell makes for a strong, female voice (both literally and figuratively) in a world dominated by males, even her discouraging father.
In a World... is wholly familiar, but that shouldn't count against it. Bell shows great promise as a writer, director and leading woman, and brings a respectably fresh filmmaker's eye to a genre that is riddled with cliches and awful writing. There's the potential for Bell to rise to the forefront of female writers and directors, especially if she delivers more scripts that craft strong female lead characters for actresses to take. In a World... is funny and cute, but has much more to say in the subtext than the surface may imply.
Ethan's Sundance Rating: 7 out of 10