Movies about “the movies” can often be a little annoying for the simple fact that it’s 2 hours of filmmakers patting themselves on the back and overestimating their importance. Fortunately, “In a World” is a movie about the industry that focuses on a much smaller aspect of the process: voice-over actors who narrate movie trailers.
The film title is, of course, a reference to the popular opening line for trailers over the years. Made famous by Don LaFontaine, it is essentially the name brand of voice-over work.
Written and directed by actress Lake Bell, the story follows voice coach Carol (Bell) who’s dream it is to be a voice-over artist like her father (Fred Melamed). After receiving her first gig by accident, Carol finds herself in contention for the very prestigious honor of resurrecting the iconic phrase “in a world” for a new film. Along with her career aspirations, Carol kicks off a new romance with a sound engineer (Demetri Martin) who desperately wants her to succeed.
My first exposure to Lake Bell was in the unbearably forgettable “Over Her Dead Body” in 2008. Despite the film being a waste of time, Bell’s comedic talents were at least noticeable. Since then she’s had more success on the bizarrely hilarious “Children’s Hospital” and with smaller roles in films like “No Strings Attached.” Although she’s well-equipped to be a comedic actress, “In a World” marks her first feature film in both writing and directing. You wouldn’t be able to tell it from watching the film, as her performances here are better than most newbies.
That being said, let’s get the negatives out of the way. The film is at it’s best when dealing with Carol’s work in “the industry.” Sadly, this part of the story is often brushed aside for a subplot where Carol’s sister (Michaela Watkins) crushes on a European hunk (Jason O’Mara) despite being married to Moe (Rob Corddry). All three of these actors make the storyline work, but this relationship drama takes up nearly a third of a film that is better suited to battling sexism and family dysfunction.
What is often the case for indie romantic comedies is that an original idea is presented in the trailer (like the voice-over industry in this film), but by the end of the film things feel a little too safe and predictable. Although this film makes the landing a lot softer than your typical rom-com, “In a World” does lose a little of its original edge by the end credits. The romantic relationship between Martin and Bell feels genuine, but it follows the typical trajectory of most films.
As previously stated, “In a World” is really at its best when dealing with the voice-over world and all of the sexism and backstabbing that goes along with it. While pushing for her right to voice trailers, Bell’s character avoids coming off as combative or a rule-breaker. She’s just a talented woman trying to achieve a goal, which really makes the message come across better. Other parts of her job, like teaching Eva Longoria (playing herself) to speak in a cockney accent, provide both insight and humor to the film. And speaking of the humor, it’s neither knee-slappingly funny nor a bore. Most of the jokes are pretty safe and comfortable, but they land a lot more often than they fail. How could a movie with Rob Corrdry, Demetri Martin and Nick Offerman not be at least a little funny?
“In a World” is far from award potential, but if you’re looking for a light-hearted date movie that’s better than most, check this one out.
Next I’ll be taking on the Paul Greengrass film, “Captain Phillips,” so check back later this week. Happy viewing.