In a World...
Opens Fri., Aug. 23 at Sundance and other theaters. Rated R. 93 minutes.
There’s a real basis for the title and guiding spirit to Lake Bell’s winning little showbiz comedy. The basso-voiced phrase “In a world…” began many a movie trailer written and delivered by Don LaFontaine (1940-2008), whose death here inspires a mad scramble for work among Hollywood’s lesser vocal talent. They all want to inherit LaFontaine’s mantle, presently worn by Sam Solomon (Fred Melamed), whose daughter Carol (Bell) is a less successful practitioner of the family trade.
Carol is a voice nerd, fascinated by the accents she covertly tapes with her ever-present Dictaphone, yet her career is confined to voice coaching, not movie work. When the widowed Sam kicks Carol out of the house to make way for a young new girlfriend (Alexandra Holden), he condescendingly tells his 31-year-old daughter, “I’m going to support you by not supporting you.” Implicit in his rebuke is that women, with their higher voices, have no place in his manly profession, where his friendly rival is the jocular trust-funder Gustav (Ken Marino). Then the couch-surfing Carol catches a break at a recording studio run by amiable Louis (Demetri Martin, becoming too typecast as nice).
Everything that transpires among Lake’s players is predictable, but in a pleasant, breezy way. In a World… plays like an overstuffed sitcom, with Carol’s wacky friends and neighbors dropping in for brief, effective bits (these include Nick Offerman, Rob Corddry, and Tig Notaro). It’s a knowing industry satire, but not a mean industry satire. (Eva Longoria shows up to make sport of herself, and a bigger star later appears in the trailer for the ludicrous epic The Amazon Games.) Bell doesn’t write the conflicts, easily resolved, or characters any deeper than they need be—save for the imperious yet fragile Sam. (Some may recall the wonderful Melamed, an actual voiceover artist, from the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man.)
And Lake wisely places a sour little cherry on Carol’s cake with the final caution of a female studio executive (Geena Davis): One small triumph over sexism won’t change an industry. Women still live in a world… Well, you complete the sentence.