New York actress Lake Bell (Children’s Hospital) makes her feature film directorial debut with this enjoyable and witty independent comedy that she also wrote and stars in. A very strong debut from Bell, In a World… is a delightful film that explores the competitive realm of voice-over performers that make their career narrating movie trailers.
Bell plays Carol, a down on her luck voice coach, who finds herself being offered jobs in voice-over work for film trailers and in the process ends up competing with her overbearing and conceited father (Fred Melamed) and a young and cocky newcomer (Ken Marino). In the midst of her career change she deals with family issues and relationship woes, all whilst trying to advance in a male dominated profession.
It is a fresh concept that looks at a career that is rarely explored in movies, and the story, which mixes Carol’s attempt to break through the glass ceiling and her friendships and relationships with the various people in her life, is charming and engaging. The side story, involving Carol’s sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins) and her brother in-law, Moe (Rob Corddry), and the rocky period of their marriage that they are going through, offers something extra and is a fun little detour from the main plot.
Lake Bell does a wonderful job in the main role of Carol. Her comedic and sarcastic tone is likeable and her facial expressions and small intricate movements help show her discomfort or anxiety in scenes that don’t require dialogue. This is the first time I’ve seen Bell in a central role and I feel like she holds her own terrifically. Demetri Martin, who plays Louis, the manager of the recording studio who has a crush on Carol, is a neurotic character whose personality appeals to Carol as the film progresses. I enjoyed their relationship and Martin, along with Bell and Corddry, were very good in their roles.
These sorts of films that take a short glimpse into a career path or profession can often feel dull and lifeless, but Bell’s performance, direction and writing take it to a level that feels fresh, full of life and very funny. There is heart to the story that makes it feel less like a silly farce and more like a drama with hints of comedy that are subtle and well realised and so they work very well. Marino, as the arrogant Gustav, felt a bit one dimensional though, the type of character that never really grows from experiences and always seems to be the chin-stroking villain without any real reason to be. His performance felt a little off and didn’t quite match with the others.
In a World… was a nice surprise and didn’t outstay its welcome. I’ll definitely be interested to see what Lake Bell does next as a writer and director because her reality-based and phobic characters are a lot of fun to watch.