News Column

Review: 'In a World'

August 23, 2013


Aug. 23--In a world where men voice all of the movie trailers and women are looked upon as incapable of making a film sound appropriately epic, one woman must embark on a journey to find her voice and prove her doubters wrong. That woman is Carol Solomon, and this movie is "In a World."

That woman is played by Lake Bell, a comedic actress best known for "No Strings Attached" and "What Happens in Vegas," providing the kind of high-energy sparks of humor to a movie similar to what a designated scorer offers coming off the bench for a basketball team.

After "In a World," she shouldn't be sitting on the sidelines anymore, because she and her film offer a fresh voice to the industry.

In the film, Bell is smart, sweet, funny and a prescient picture of female empowerment as a woman who won't give up on what appears to be a for-men-only dream. Not only that, but in a marvelous indie-movie combo, Bell is not only the star, but also the producer, director and writer of this witty winner.

Wait, there's more: Bell has leading-lady looks and isn't afraid to look foolish, which is always a strong trait. She is also such a master of dialects and accents that she pulls off what seems like about a dozen different ones during this movie. This woman has all of the tools.

She also has a funny idea for her movie: Not only is she a woman looking for her own place in the world of voice-over advertising, but there is also the matter of in-house competition with her father (Fred Melamed, an inspired choice, plays the ego-driven dad), who just happens to be the king of movie-trailer voice-performance.

He could never see her as competition to him because, like his colleagues, he could never imagine her winning a job over any male because "the industry just doesn't crave a female voice."

Bell creates Carol as a bundle of insecurity and hilarious frustration, who must now literally find a new path in life after her father kicks her out of his home because his half-his-age girlfriend is moving in. "I'm going to support you," the father tells his daughter, "by not supporting you."

As a down-on-her-luck vocal coach, Carol's numerous awkward social situations place her in the very clubby atmosphere of the voice-actor community, which is perhaps only slightly heightened in reality by Bell as a world where only a few heavyweights win all the good gigs that pay well.

Some of the originality of "In a World" comes from seeing a female perspective on the subject of arrested development, but Bell proves to have as good an ear for authentic dialogue and irony as she does for accents.

This allows her to not only make some rather conventional rom-com elements better (between Carol and Louis, a recording engineer played by Demetri Martin) but also to create a true ensemble of quirky characters who each seem to have their own developed lives and fit into a larger story of competition between multiple players -- including, of course, Carol's dad.

A sidebar story involving marital strain between Carol's sister and husband feels disconnected in tone from the rest of the film, but even this does not prove to be a distraction because Michaela Watkins and Rob Corddry play characters that we come to like so much thanks to Bell's witty writing.

Her funny commentary on the industry focuses on a race to see who will next say "In a World..." for a trailer for "The Amazon Games," an Amazon-women quadrilogy clearly lampooning "The Hunger Games." The in-joke is a double-edged sword in that a four-movie franchise based on strong women seems like the last thing that could happen in Hollywood in the current atmosphere.

But who knows what the future of the industry holds, Bell surmises, if women can make their voices be heard.

Michael Smith 918-581-8479


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