In a World…, the name of the first film written and directed by actress Lake Bell, refers to a famous opening line, used over and over for the previews of coming attractions, or trailers, as they’re called in the industry, usually for big-budget spectacles of some sort. For example, “In a world where good and evil collide, one man will embark on a journey that will change everything.” It was coined by king of the voice men Don LaFontaine, cited in the beginning of this film as the standard by which other voice actors are measured.
The movie In a World…uses this odd Hollywood subculture as a springboard for presenting the humorous world view of Lake Bell, who stars in her movie as Carol Solomon, daughter of famous voice actor Sam Soto, herself aspiring to make a living in the business, but getting by doing work as a vocal coach. When her incredibly selfish father kicks her out because his too-young-for-him girlfriend is moving in, she has to move in with her sister and brother-in-law, played by Michaela Watkins and Rob Corddry. Through a stroke of good luck, she lands a job that was supposed to go to the up-and-coming star in the business, played by Ken Marino. Meanwhile a romance struggles to emerge between her and a co-worker at the studio played by Demetri Martin.
The plot is really not as involved as it sounds, because Bell makes everything flow with her witty wisecracks that are seasoned with a strong dose of insecurity. To put it plainly, she’s very funny. Her screenplay and her performance just hit the right notes over and over. With most comedies there’s a sense of trying every gag there is just to get a laugh, and forget about realism of any sort. With Bell’s film, on the other hand, the situations are just believable enough to make the laughter come unforced, without a sense of manipulation and trying too hard. The getting-to-know-you dating scenes with Demetri Martin, for instance, are awkward in a touching rather than an embarrassing way, which makes the humor more fun.
There’s always the danger of over-praising when a film manages to rise above the general muck, but the few weak spots in the film are too minor to even notice. The main character’s quest within the faintly ridiculous world of the voice-over can stand in for a greater goal within film in general—more women’s voices, more movies written and directed by women. And definitely more Lake Bell, whose talent is abundantly evident here. Like anyone else, I want to just laugh and enjoy myself at the movies sometimes, and In a World… definitely did the trick.