In a World... review

We’ve all heard those words. Sitting in a dark movie theatre, waiting for the main feature to begin, the excited low buzz of whispered conversation dying as the trailers begin, the rich, deep, baritone voice rumbling, thick as molasses: “In a world…”

Sam Sotto (Melamed) is the king of the movie trailer voice-over, the man with the golden tonsils. A legend in the industry, he’s about to receive a lifetime achievement award and has been grooming the arrogant, honey-voiced Gustav (Marino) to inherit his throne. Sam’s planning to retire, to live the good life with a girlfriend 35 years his junior who’s younger than his daughter, Carol (Bell), a struggling voice coach who still lives at home and dreams of cracking the almost exclusively male, misogynistic world of the voice-over artiste.

Carol finally gets her shot at cracking the big time when she’s asked to audition to voice the trailer for a feminist, Hunger Games-style action movie But Sam and Gustav are both competing for the same prestigious gig…

Sharp, amusing and well-observed, actress Lake Bell writes, produces, directs and stars in In A World, a smart satire about a woman on the fringes of the male-dominated voice-over world (and Hollywood in general) that’s really only funny around the edges with characters like Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman shining as a stoned sound engineer. A gifted actress and comedienne, here Bell is in full-on annoying kook mode, an adult child desperately trying to gain the approval of her selfish man-child father while flip-flopping between two men (the self-obsessed Gustav and a nice guy sound engineer played by alleged ‘comedian’ Martin), her character far less interesting than those she writes around her; the raw, brittle sub-plot about her sister (Watkins) and her husband (Corddry) and their marital problems is wonderfully nuanced and affecting.  

There are some funny, laugh-out-loud moments – Carol teaching Desperate Houswife Longoria to speak with a Dick Van Dyke-ish Cockernee accent or running classes weaning women away from ridiculous babydoll voices – but the point she’s making, that Hollywood is a teensy bit sexist, is far from groundbreaking with perhaps the film’s most honest, truthful moment coming in Carol’s bathroom encounter with an older, female movie executive (a terrific cameo by Geena Davis) which lays bare the tension and ambiguity of female power relationships.  Sisters might be doing it for themselves but they’re not necessarily helping each other out.

Smart, funny, satirical and just the right side of saccharine, Bell’s In A World is a gently assured debut.

In a World... at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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