Part family drama, part romantic comedy, part Hollywood satire – there is much to be admired by Lake Bell’s directorial debut In a World…, as the actress has taken a leaf out of Lena Dunham’s book, in writing, directing and starring in a feature that signals a continuing shift in fortunes for female comedy writers, with a wry and consistently comical picture. Playing at Sundance Film Festival, this production remains faithful to the spirit of which this festival stands for – as a platform for inspiring and exciting new filmmakers to showcase their work.
Bell plays Carol, a vocal coach who has grown up in the movies industry, as her father Sam (Fred Melamed) is one of the most well renowned movie trailer voice-over artists, and someone who always makes it clear that a woman could never cut it in this field. Moving in her with her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins), Carol sets out to take on her father and rising voice-over star Gustav (Ken Marino) to win the battle in becoming the voice of an upcoming major Hollywood franchise, determined to overcome the inherent sexism that exists.
There is of course an encouraging overriding message in this film, working by way of a statement about women’s importance in film and their deserving place in the industry, with the need to be considered as equals. An exploration of such a theme seems a somewhat poignant reminder also, coming from a female director who was no doubt able to project her own experiences into the picture as a first-time female filmmaker – ultimately playing a role not too far removed from reality; that of a creative simply wanting to be appreciated.
Such themes do not feel thrust upon the viewer however, as it’s delicately and intelligently dealt with. That said, In a World… does feel somewhat self-indulgent at times, often the case when a filmmaker takes on such a variety of roles. When one person singularly writes, directs, and stars in a film – often their voice can be heard louder than others, and it can prove to be overbearing. Bell does turn in a strong performance however, a sentiment shared across the cast – with a host of supporting characters, all with their own parts to play, and their own agendas that help complete this title. The likes of love interest Louis (Demetri Martin), and Dani’s husband Moe (Rob Corddry) are impactful and endearing, while we also have a cameo role for Jeff Garlin (yay!)
Where In a World… stands out, is how we really examine the quirky idiosyncrasies that people have, as Bell makes sure to include all of those small, awkward moments that people share – the sort that may seem irrelevant, yet in the grand scheme of things, they make this film what it is, adding a naturalistic, comfortability to proceedings, in a similar vein to how I Love You, Man managed. This picture may not be particularly profound, but it survives off an amiability that derives from our characters, as a film that leaves a sweet taste in the mouth.
Funny, touching and warm-hearted, you can’t ask for too much more from the first feature film by a young director, and one made on a relatively low-budget. This feature would work well as a second viewing also, and you could even do so with your eyes closed; given we delve into the subject matter of voice-over artists, there is an array of brilliant vocal performances on show and you could well return to this one just for a mere listen.