“In a World” puts a spotlight on the cutthroat voice-over industry the way “Black Swan” exposed the brutally competitive world of ballet. But the former is exuberant while the latter is grim.
Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) is a struggling voice talent who lives in the shadow of her father, Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed), a legend in the movie-trailer industry. As if that’s not bad enough, Sam is a male chauvinist who doesn’t believe women can be as effective as men in the voice-over business. He doesn’t think Carol has any chance of making it. His protégé is Gustav (Ken Marino), a pompous young man.
In the beginning of the film, Sam kicks Carol out of his house in the guise of tough love, but it’s really to let his young girlfriend move in. Carol is forced to crash at the house of her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) and her husband Moe (Rob Corddry). Carol works with Louis (Demetri Martin), a sound engineer who’s secretly in love with her.
After having no luck for so long, Carol hits it big. She gets hired for two gigs, plus a big studio is considering her to do the trailer for a movie quadrilogy called “Amazon Games.” The studio plans to resurrect the “in a world…” spiel, which has been retired since the death of Dan LaFontaine, a real-life Hollywood voice-over king.
In a typical romcom fashion, a party hosted by Gustav serves as an occasion for layers upon layers of miscommunication and misunderstandings. Louis is pretending that he’s not interested in Carol by bringing a date. Carol is seduced by Gustav, who doesn’t know that she’s Sam’s daughter. Carol and Gustav don’t know that they both competed for a gig that Carol got.
The competition for the quadrilogy assignment is one of the highlights of the movie. Sam and Gustav vie for the job, challenging Carol. The intensity of their preparation rivals that of an Olympic training.
Who ends up getting the plum job? I won’t reveal the ending, but I would categorically say that Lake Bell is a triple threat as a writer, director, and comedian.
I’ve never heard of Lake Bell before this film. I’ve seen one of her movies (“It’s Complicated,” 2009), but I don’t remember her at all. In this film, she makes an incredible impression. She’s funny, goofy, and lovable.
Lake Bell’s talent as a filmmaker was validated at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where she won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. If the award’s past recipients are an indicator of where Bell is headed, she has a bright future ahead of her. Christopher Nolan, the director of the hugely successful “Dark Knight” trilogy, received the same award (together with his brother, Jonathan) for “Memento” in 2001.
“In a World” successfully introduces viewers to the nondescript, male-dominated voice-over industry. We all watch movie trailers, but most of us are not familiar with the industry’s hierarchy and politics. This is a film worth watching, thanks to Lake Bell’s refreshing talent and unique sensibility.