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SIFF ADVANCE: In a World... - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
SIFF ADVANCE: In a World...
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-

In a World... takes a little while to find its footing, and it suffers slightly from the unevenness of a first-time feature director. That said, whatever flaws there might be, Lake Bell appears to be quite adept at directing herself, as her own performance as the lead is what anchors the film and ultimately makes it eminently watchable.

The unique and fun conceit here is that Carol (Bell) is a struggling voice-over actress working in an industry largely dominated by her father, Sam (Fred Melamed). The film's title refers to the "iconic" stock phrase in movie voice-overs, and the voice that coined it -- which came from a man who recently passed away, and now everyone wonders who will take up the mantle. Melamed, as the deep-voiced, petty and selfish man widely considered to be that voice-over successor, essentially phones in his part. Either that or he just isn't that great of an actor. In his defense, he's given most of the humor early on that doesn't really fall flat; it seems like we're supposed to laugh at his self-absorption, but it's really just uncomfortable and embarrassing. Later, we're meant to feel compassion for him, but he's been such a douche bag for so long, that doesn't come easily either.

In the meantime, Carol, getting most of her jobs working as a freelance vocal coach, auditions for a spot as the voice-over for a trailer to an upcoming "quadrilogy" of huge, blockbuster adaptations of books called The Amazon Games. (Gee, I wonder where they got that title from?) In spite of the neo-feminist nature of the movies, it's a shock when Carol is suddenly in the running for the job. And then comes the crux of this movie: a three-way competition for the voice-over job, between Carol, her asshole father, and Gustav, the up-and-comer voice-over guy Carol is unwittingly dating and who happens to be friends with Sam.

Much of this is presented with an undercurrent of commentary regarding the apparently sexist use of male voices in voice-over work, and the idea that audiences don't respond the same way to the urgent tones of female voices. It almost seems like Lake Bell, who also wrote the script, is trying to make a statement, but precisely what that is remains unclear.

Bell clearly has a lot of friends who are willing to help her say whatever it is she's trying to say, though. There are several cameos, from Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman to comedian Jeff Garlin (as himself, hosting the Golden Trailer Awards), and perhaps most significantly, Geena Davis, as the woman who makes the voice-over hiring decision. Some serious comedy fans will recognize comedian Tig Notaro as a woman named Cher, but disappointingly, Cher only gets one or two of the laughs.

All of this goes on with two relationship subplots: Carol being clumsily pursued by her coworker Louis (a lovely Demetri Martin); and Carol's sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) making a huge misstep in her relationship with Moe (Rob Corddry). I'm not sure the subplot with Dani and Moe is necessary or even relevant to the story, but it's nice to see the typical storyline there subverted: usually it's the man who has to make amends for infidelity -- or even the threat of it.

As all this goes on, In a World... has cumulative charms that eventually win you over. The production values, sound quality, and editing all leave a little to be desired -- on a technical level, this movie could have used some serious polishing -- but, to be fair, I got several good, belly laughs out of it. Lake Bell herself presents an atypical character in a movie both made in and largely about Hollywood: awkward, somewhat sloppy, disheveled, yet sincere and believable. There's nothing superficial about her, which makes her feel like the movie-version of a Midwestern girl, who just happens to live in Los Angeles. I'm sure such people actually do exist in L.A. And it's kind of nice to see a movie using L.A. as a backdrop without either shitting on it or lampooning it.

Some of the other characters, particularly Sam, are a bit more two-dimensional, but at least they generally serve to keep In a World... entertaining. It's all in the service of a good time at the movies, and on that level it succeeds.

Lake Bell takes on movie trailer voice-overs in IN A WORLD...

Overall: B
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