In a World… (Roadside Attractions, R)

In-a-World 75There’s a whiff of feminism to the movie in that it’s about a young woman struggling to make it in what is in more ways than one a man’s world.

In-a-World 500

One of the hits of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, In a World… is the story of a young woman named Carol (Lake Bell) who is a vocal coach and is trying to break into the lucrative field of doing the voiceovers for movie trailers (hence the title, which begins all too many trailer voiceovers and was made iconic by the purr of the late Don LaFontaine). There’s a whiff of feminism to the movie in that it’s about a young woman struggling to make it in what is in more ways than one a man’s world. It’s worth noting that Lake Bell herself wrote and directed this movie, too (hopefully you know how all-too-rare it is to see a movie released by a major studio that was written by a woman, let alone directed by one), which highlights what I just said about the film being somewhat feminist—perhaps it only feels that way because it’s the rare film that’s actually coming from a female voice.

And I don’t mean to make it all sound so serious, as In a World… is a crowd-pleasing comedy. Just look at the supporting cast: comedians Demetri Martin as a co-worker of Carol’s and a potential love interest and Rob Corddry (as Carol’s sister’s boyfriend), Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman as a friend of Demetri Martin’s, Party Down’s Ken Marino as voiceover competition, A Serious Man’s Fred Melamed as an industry legend voiceover artist as well as Carol’s dad, etc. The script, which won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance (which is one of the biggest and most-coveted prizes there), is replete with funny lines, which Bell generously gives to her costars much more often than she takes them for herself. And while her Carol may not be the funniest character in the movie, she is thoroughly likeable; a competition comes up rather organically and unexpectedly toward the end of the movie, and it’s no trouble at all to root for Carol.

When I was reviewing last year’s Celeste and Jesse Forever, I commented that perhaps Rashida Jones co-wrote that script in part because of the lack of good female roles coming out of Hollywood right now. The same logic can be applied to how Bell came to write this screenplay. At its worst it feels like a reel for Bell, who as witnessed here is very good with accents, characters, mimicking, etc., but even at the times when it has that stench of conspicuously showcasing Bell’s talent, she actually does have the talent to back it up, so it hardly matters.

Final thought (/digression): Lake Bell appeared nude and not really even covered on a recent issue of “New York Magazine’s” cover, to promote the release of this film. Okay, now let’s look at this: she wrote, directed, and stars in this movie, and did an excellent job of all three things. The movie is not sexy, nor is it intended to be. Should she really have to get naked in a magazine to promote it? The movie stands on its own—can we please get away from this as a culture? Or at least make Quentin Tarantino show his hairy nutsack on the cover of some magazine the next time he has a movie come out? | Pete Timmermann

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