“In a World” is the Lake Bell show – where “against impossible odds…” She writes, directs and stars in this trifecta of talent and proves with tonsil tantalizing vocal verisimilitude that a gal can go into bat in a big man’s game and make a home run with adept and dexterity.”
running time: 93 min
writer / director: Lake Bell
select cast: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Ken Marino, Michaela Watkins, Rob Corddry, Demetri Martin, Alexandra Holden
Review (text version)
“One man, against impossible odds, in a world…”
or something like that…
Don LaFontaine, the master of the movie trailer voice-over is dead (yes, he really is) and with him passes one of the most imitated catch phrases of the past decade… or two.
Now Don didn’t actually “own” the magic words “In a World…”, but would anyone else dare contemplate using those words in a movie trailer? I mean no one would dare touch “over the Rainbow” until 25 years after Judy Garland departed… So what’s a reasonable period of time before respectful rhetoric recycling?
With an incantation that identifiable, that cliched (open to discussion) who now will dare to speak it?
“In a World” is the Lake Bell show – where “against impossible odds…” She writes, directs and stars in this trifecta of talent and proves with tonsil tantalizing vocal verisimilitude that a gal can go into bat in a big man’s game and make a home run with adept and dexterity.
If the idea of a rom-com, sorta, between a slightly OCD, domestically dyslexic vocal coach and geeky audio engineer doesn’t appeal to you, that’s OK because that’s a really small part of four or five parallel plots in this movie.
Ms Bell has created a genuinely witty insight into the complex and confused life of her lead character, Carol Soloman, facing some stifling pressures “in a world” of voice battling over artists – yes, voice overs are an industry!
Carol’s egotistical father, Sam, is the man most likely to succeed LaFontaine as tinsel towns tonsil torch bearer, or so he’d like to think. His, “I’m doing this for your own good” attitude to his daughter is barely a mask for the fragile ego and expanded self importance and is neatly played by actor and real life voice over master Fred Melamed.
This film is about voices – professionals using false voices of authority to impress and sell products and regular people finding their “real” voice to define themselves. Lake Bell commented in an interview with Tribeccafilm.com,
“I’m interested in fallible characters. Writing comes from what you know and what you observe, and so to have these people taking on these fantasy voices and being so discombobulated in their own lives is great fodder for comedy. At the end of the day, voice-over is fantasy-driven for the listener as well as the doer.”
The support cast do a great job, each of them with their own little foibles and quirks.
The sibling bond between Bell and Michaela Watkins, playing her older sister, is about as real as it gets. Their blending is right on the money – you get the sense of the discordant history between these two running deep and long without having to say a word about it – the creative and easily distracted Carol and the grounded other sister who was likely the responsible classroom monitor at age ten and is still doing it. The dynamic between the two women and then between the Father reveals some well observed human conditions of the “I’ll need 22 years in therapy to get through this” type.
Ken Marino slithers into the role of Gustav, another over privileged, and over tanned, hot jock contender for the big voice over job – and no I’m not going to tell you what the gig is because it’s just too darn funny to give away. So, will Gustav’s fast moves and satin sheets be enough to destabilise our heroine and ensure he snatches the prize for himself? I mean this industry is cut throat from the voice booth to the boudoir.
As a true romantic interest to Carol, stand up comic Demetri Martin does a really neat job bringing his own brand of geekish gentle humour into his attempts of wooing. He’s immensely likeable.
And, in another sub plot, Eva Longoria appears as herself in a laugh out loud situation involving a cork, don’t ask! Plus Carol’s aim to get grown women to drop the teen Valley Girl vocal affectations and start talking like… Well, Grown women.
A cameo by Geena Davis is a wake up call to our feminist minded heroine that not all the women you meet in the powder room are part of the sisterhood. It’s a knock-out moment and puts a whole new spin on everything that’s just transpired.
It sounds like overload, right, five-and-a-half movies in one trying way too hard, but here’s where it’s just so darn clever – each and every thread is dependent on, and impacts, on the other.
I did think, “Could I pull that sub plot from the film and it still work?” and the answer is a definitive “No”.
Each thread plays its independent notes, and there’s this intricate cross over that creates a harmonious chord. This really is a clever piece of movie story telling, with some razor sharp dialogue that deservedly won Best Screenplay at Sundance in 2013.
Final thought… is it just me or is there more than just a hint of the better efforts of Woody Allen in there? You know, the tongue tied, awkwardness that’s usually the turf of neurotic Jewish stand up comics? The exasperating conflicts and clashes when truth is about the last thing spoken by anyone? Just putting that out there for discussion…
© Greg Punch 2015
Stage 6 Films
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