Thursday, August 15, 2013

IN A WORLD... Review

Lake Bell. You may not know the name, but you do know her face. She's the one who plays the snarky sidekick in romantic comedies. To get the lead, she had to make the role for herself. "In A World..." was written, directed and produced by the actress, and to say this is a starmaking turn for her is putting it lightly. We may be experiencing the Lena Dunham's "Girls" movie-equivalent breakout.

Bell plays Carol who lives under the same roof as, and in the ever-present shadow of, her father, Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed of "A Serious Man"), whose sultry baritone is one of the leading voices in the voiceover industry. Carol, who aspires to break into the male-dominated world, instead spends her days vocal coaching Eva Longoria and practicing her accents. The aptly titled comedy gives us a crash course in the absurdly cut-throat industry where those epic, cliched opening three words rule. While very funny and cheeky, the film also treats the business of it with real sincerity.

When Sotto's groupie-turned-girlfriend Jamie (Alexandra Holden) moves in, Carol gets kicked to the curb and shacks up with her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) and her sad sack husband, Moe (Rob Corddry). While there she unwittingly becomes involved in a marital breakdown on top of the obvious problem of sleeping on her sister's couch. The couple brings an interesting dynamic to the script, which sometimes has a lot going on but is always nicely balanced. Other supporting players include Nick Offerman and Demetri Martin in the sound studio, the latter's dry, awkward humor complementing Lake's Carol perfectly. Ken Marino of "Burning Love" plays Gustav, a young hot shot voiceover actor gunning for Sotto's job.

Gustav, Sotto and Carol get in a heated three-way competition to become the next big trailer voice for an upcoming YA adaptation series -- a tongue-in-cheek joke that is so perfectly timed considering the onslaught of those adaptations we're experiencing now. This one is a playful knock on "The Hunger Games," called "The Amazon Games," a self-proclaimed quadrilogy.

"In A World..." is a blithe comedy that is far more insightful than its surface pleasantries lead on. It's a feminist story, one that takes a look at sexism in not only the voiceover industry but the entire studio industry in a real way. Geena Davis as a top producer delivers a line that brings the movie's message home without ever daring to become preachy. Lake Bell is a true original, and it'll be exciting to see what she does next in what hopes to be a long, fruitful career both behind and in front of the camera.

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