Lake Bell is one of those frustratingly best kept secret actresses in Hollywood.
Sure, she’s had steady work on TV shows like Boston Legal and scene-stealing roles in movies including Over Her Dead Body and What Happens in Vegas, but it wasn’t hard to see that she was too talented to be relegated to the background supporting roles for the rest of her career.
Perhaps similarly frustrated with filmmakers’ failure to best highlight her star-in-the-making talent, Bell decided to just do it herself with her fantastic directorial/screenwriting debut, In a World.
After the death of legendary voice over actor Don Lafontaine, the voice over community scrambles to fill the void in the first film to use the famed catchphrase ‘in a world…’
Carol (Bell) is not one of them. Her father, Sam (Fred Melamed), was one of the top voice over stars of his generation. His celebrity within the niche community cast a long shadow over Carol, who was content simply to be a voice over coach.
Kind of makes you wonder if Bell, who’s co-starred with glamorous stars like Cameron Diaz, Natalie Portman and Eva Longoria, wasn’t using that subplot as an analogy of her experiences.
Sam thinks he’s been enabling Carol and decides to kick her out in hopes of finally making something of herself.
Carol turns to her sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins, The Back-up Plan), and brother-in-law, Moe (Rob Corddry, Warm Bodies), for comfort. Dani’s got her own issues though as Moe isn’t nearly as fascinating as the flirtatious guest (Jason O’Mara, Resident Evil: Extinction) at the hotel where she works as a concierge.
Sam’s hand-picked successor, Gustav (Ken Marino), is a shoo-in to be cast, but a bout of laryngitis keeps him out of the studio forcing Carol to do a fill-in and land the prestigious role. Sam and Gustav immediately began investigating to learn who this nobody is who ‘stole’ Gustav’s gig.
Fun fact: Most of the principal actors in the film have had extensive work as voice over actors so they’re very familiar with the subject matter.
Getting her first opportunity to headline a film, Bell doesn’t disappoint. She’s got an easy charisma to her that makes her relatable and immensely likable. You’re quickly rooting for Carol to make her mark in the male-dominated field. And if she realizes that the shy sound booth operator Louis (Demetri Martin) is into her, that’s all the better.
Watkins, another far too underutilized performer, shines as well with the more emotionally-demanding role. The best case scenario from the film is that Bell and Watkins’ agents are swamped with calls and pitches for the next few years.
Bell shot the film in 20 days, which is mainly noticeable with the lack of set variety and the occasional tight camera perspectives. Budget numbers weren’t available, but beyond a few scenes with dim lighting, the film is smaller-scale without looking cheap.
There’s a ton of great lines here and the script is so funny, intimate and real that Bell has got to be on the short list for Best Original Screenplay as we near award season.
The movie kinda came and left theaters in August, but by means is this no indication of its quality. In a World is a case where people aren’t talking about it more simply because they haven’t seen it yet. Don’t keep yourself in that category any longer and be sure to check it out sooner rather than later.
Rating: 8 out of 10