Winner of this year’s Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic, In A World… is the writer-director debut of actress Lake Bell, best known for her work on TV shows Boston Legal and How to Make It in America. Tackling the super-niche subject of competitive, neurotic voice-over artists, Bell’s telling musings on creative industries and her uniquely quirky sense of humour ensure this is a real hoot for viewers inclined to bite down on the strange subject matter.
Opening with a credits montage featuring clips of legendary late trailer voice-over God Don LaFontaine, the film notes quite rightly that movie trailers have not been the same since his passing five years ago. A replacement, someone to voice every new epic movie trailer, is being sought, and it has come down to three people – egotistical upstart Gustav (Ken Marino), the new King of voice-overs, Sam (Fred Melamed), and Sam’s daughter, Carol (Bell) – with familial competition and bizarre sexual mind-games only complicating things further.
Though a sure feminist bent cuts through Bell’s film – noting the lack of female voice-over artists on movie trailers, and moreover, the power of the female voice – it is an agenda deftly massaged into the script rather than one errantly bundled along. Bell smartly focuses instead on delivering the big laughs, which she does with a pithy script that milks the situational absurdity while also forging a genuinely heart-swelling romance between Carol and her awkward sound engineer colleague Louis (Demitri Martin).
The only real misstep is that a subplot involving Carol’s sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) and her temptation to cheat on her boyfriend Moe (Rob Corddry) feels completely superfluous to everything else that is happening.
The core appeal of the film, however, is undeniably Bell’s perky personality; she’s affable and likeable without being exhaustively energetic – there’s a humility and sense of self-deprecation that contributes enormously to her charm. If nothing else, the film will hopefully help cement the actress’s comic appeal, and act as a calling card for any future projects she might undertake behind the camera.
Blending some surreal Mike Judge-esque characterisation with startling jabs at Hollywood – the cameo from Eva Longoria is fantastic – In A World…is easily the funniest film of the year to date, and Bell makes only a few minor missteps along the way.
It serves as an uproarious coming out party for writer-director-lead Lake Bell, and you’ll never watch a movie trailer the same way again.
In A World…premieres at Sundance London tonight.
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