Title: In a World…
Director: Lake Bell
Starring: Lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Fred Melamed
There are few things Hollywood loves more than a movie about the movies. In a World… incorporates the real-life voiceover master Don LaFontaine, who popularized those three words in his narration of countless movie trailers over the years, until his death in 2008. Actress Lake Bell makes her feature film debut as director and writer of this funny, light-hearted story of Carol, the daughter of famed voiceover artist Sam (Fred Melamed), who gets the chance to compete to become the new token trailer voice after LaFontaine’s death. Like any movie-industry mockery, it’s full of wit and energy, and many laughs throughout.
There is a tendency when making parodies of Hollywood to go for an extreme, creating cartoonish characters that couldn’t possibly exist in real life. For Your Consideration managed a controlled maniacal take, while Tropic Thunder and What Just Happened have gone to absurd lengths to send up the industry. In a World… falls somewhere in between, offering genuinely hilarious, over-the-top characters in Sam and fellow voiceover star Gustav (Ken Marino), while skewering the ridiculousness of blockbusters with the trailer they are all vying to narrate. This picture of faceless stardom isn’t meant to be taken literally, rather as a cheerful nod to one intriguing and oft-forgotten aspect of the movie business.
Bell, who should be well-known to television viewers after series regular roles on Children’s Hospital, How to Make It in America, Surface, and Boston Legal, has a tendency to portray awkward characters. Knowing her strengths, she appears in just that type of role here, as the uncertain Carol whose life is somewhat directionless, joined by Demetri Matrin in an amusing part as Louis, the industry professional who records her sound and can never find the words to ask her out in a straightforward manner. Among the ensemble cast, Alexandra Holden shines in a familiar role as the younger woman who has stolen an older man’s heart, that of Sam, who is brilliantly portrayed by Melamed, who hams it up to just the right level to create a believably self-absorbed Hollywood player with a magnificently dramatic speaking style.
The story of In a World… follows several supporting characters in addition to Carol and her two main competitors for LaFontaine’s job, her father and Gustav. Michaela Watkins and Rob Corddry appear as Carol’s sister Dani and her husband Mo, who are faced with the twin distractions of a handsome hotel guest (Jason O’Mara) and a flirtatious, beautiful neighbor (Talulah Riley). Carol’s affinity for bringing a tape recorder around with her to record interesting voices ties all the stories together and helps to create a fun and functional narrative, one which is often exaggerated but charming nonetheless.
Spotlighting one of the less publicized but most publicly-consumed aspects of the theatrical experience is fun, and Bell has a terrific attitude towards comedy which makes this film very funny if not entirely even. The structure of the story is somewhat comparable to that of a movie trailer, starting out from a point of conflict and then leading to a vaguely pleasant resolution which doesn’t quite tie up all the loose ends, instead putting them in some sort of temporary order. For light entertainment, In a World… works well, serving as an enjoyable look at an interesting business.
In a World… is an entry in the Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Competition in Park City.
Written by Abe Fried-Tanzer