Lake Bell is an interesting filmmaker. She has a unique voice. While In a World… is a bit uneven, juggling a few too many storylines, there is this fantastic scene at the end of the movie where she tears apart the hubris of her engaging protagonist. In this scene, we are dip into Bell’s vision of what makes Hollywood tick, and as a result have to revisit her movie with a new perspective. At first glance, In a World… plays like a mix of a femme coming-of-age tale and a rom-com set against the backdrop of Hollywood sound mixing and voice-over work. After the movie is over, you realize that what you really saw was a work about feminism and tokenism in this cutthroat industry.
Bell stars as Carol, a slacker voice coach who lives at home with her legendary voice over father, Sam (Fred Melamed). Because he’s shacking up with a girl half his age, Sam kicks Carol to the curb, forcing her to move in with her sister (Michaela Watkins) and brother-in-law (Rob Corddry). Carol dreams of doing movie trailers like her father, but he takes every opportunity to make her aware of how sexist the industry is. Living in her dad’s shadow, she takes whatever work she can get at a local sound studio, run by Louis (Demetri Martin), who is madly in love with her in that traditional beta-male way.
One day, Carol is given a chance to do a movie trailer voice over for a children’s rom-com, and nails it, stealing the work out from under her father’s protégé, Gustav (Ken Marino). This sets into motion the movie’s core plot, as Gustav and Sam find themselves unknowingly fighting against Carol. It’s a battle of the sexes, and resorts in some funny moments.
Bell’s script, which is full of some great one-liners and terrific wit, at times feels weighed down by unnecessary storylines. The most egregious involves Dani, Carol’s sister, who almost-sorta-kinda cheats on her husband with an Irish client at the hotel in which she works as a concierge. The story draws us away from Carol, and never truly pays off. It feels like its own movie at times, and doesn’t really add much thematically in addition to slowing down the plot. The love story between Louis and Carol is a bit contrived, as well, and even though Martin and Bell have some definite geek chemistry, not enough time is given to their budding romance to make it feel like more than the standard “this is a movie about a woman, so we have to have a romance” angle. Bell’s biggest problem as a screenwriter here is the need to cater to traditional comedic tropes, which falls a bit flat when you consider the film’s subversive ending.
Regardless, as a first film, In a World… is an excellent starting point for Lake Bell. She is definitely a voice worth listening to.