Reviews

Lake Bell

USA, 2013

Credits

Review by Victoria Large

Posted on 23 May 2013

Source digital projection

Categories The 2013 Independent Film Festival Boston

Lake Bell, the writer, director, and star of IFFB’s closing night feature In World…, introduced the ninety-three minute film with the observation that it was relatively short: “It’s going to be done soon,” she offered cheerfully. While Bell was being amusingly self-deprecating, her film’s lively pace and light tone are among its assets. Set in the (apparently) cutthroat world of movie trailer voiceover artists, In a World… is the type of indie that has the potential to be a crossover success: it’s a date movie. Happily, thanks to some good gags and endearing performances, it’s also a genuinely fun watch.

Bell plays Carol Solomon, the daughter of successful voiceover artist Sam Sotto. Carol is obsessed with accents and the human voice, and she works as a dialect coach while seeking her own big break in the voiceover industry. One of the film’s central conceits is that the industry is still seeking someone to step forward and fill the shoes of late voiceover star Don LaFontaine, who intoned, “In a world…” in countless movie trailers before his passing in 2008. Ignoring his daughter’s career aspirations, Sam decides to back egotistical up-and-comer Gustav Warner as voiceover’s next big thing. At the same time, he determines it’s high time that the thirty-one-year-old Carol moves out on her own. Lacking funds, Carol ends up crashing with her sister Dani and brother-in-law Moe while still searching for her big break.

All of this may sound a bit inside baseball, and many indie film fans might be fed up with protagonists in their late twenties and early thirties who are dealing with getting booted from their parents’ homes, but Bell is likable, and she and her castmates do a good job of finding the film’s heart. Michaela Watkins and Rob Corddry bring levity and authenticity to Dani and Moe, who struggle with the ramifications of infidelity in the story’s most engaging subplot, and Demetri Martin is sweet but not saccharine as Carol’s love interest. Ken Marino is also quite funny as the egotistical Gustav, whose best moments come during an awkward seduction scene. (“There’s something about you that reminds you of me,” he intones in an attempt to pay someone a compliment.) Viewers allergic to all things warm-and-fuzzy might squirm through a few of the scenes where Carol reconciles with Sam, but it’s hard to fault a lighthearted film like this its sentimental streak.

The film’s movie-industry satire provides it with some of its sharpest moments, including some game appearances by Eva Longoria and Cameron Diaz playing goofy versions of themselves. It happens that Bell is a bit of a voiceover geek (During the post-movie Q&A, she cited Melissa Disney’s voiceover for the Gone in Sixty Seconds trailer as a major watershed for women in the voiceover industry. I had no idea.), but you don’t have to be similarly obsessed in order to enjoy her film. Much of her showbiz critique has an admirable feminist edge (Carol’s career struggles are very much linked to her gender), though I did find the film’s swipes at women with stereotypically high and breathy speech patterns to be a bit simplistic—maybe because I’d just seen The Punk Singer and been reminded that Kathleen Hanna had a major impact on Third Wave Feminism while talking like a Valley girl. But all quibbling aside, In a World… is refreshing in its willingness to spotlight a forgotten corner of the movie industry, and it gives viewers reason to laugh and to think during its not-overlong stay. It suggests a solid future for Bell as a filmmaker and actor, and it wrapped IFFB on a joyful note.

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