In a World… (2013)

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A joyous and idiosyncratic directorial debut from Lake Bell. The great pleasure of In a World… comes from it’s setting in the world of voice-acting. Carol Sotto (Bell) is a vocal coach looking to get into doing voice-overs for movies. She carries a portable tape recorder around to obsessively capture accents so that she can perfectly emulate them, she talks to strangers in their dialect to communicate more effectively and her day job consists of training A-listers in the art of the accent during ADR sessions. Her father (Fred Melamed) is a well-respected voice over legend but refuses to support Carol in this male-dominated industry and at the beginning of the movie cuts her off by kicking her out of his house in favour of his young wife because, well, he’s a douche.

All of this stuff is fascinating. It’s a look at a Hollywood subculture I’ve never seen before and with a lead as charismatic and likeable as Bell at the center, the film quickly pulls you in. The observations feel incredibly authentic, it’s clear this is an industry Bell has had first-hand experience in. All of the scenes, both around the industry and Carol’s relationship with her father, feel rooted in some kind of anecdotal honesty. Bell is extremely self-effacing though and you can feel her heart in this material. There is a voice at work here that understands comedy and characterisation, it isn’t tainted by cynicism and the film’s brightness keeps it light on it’s feet. Even a subplot involving infidelity is handled very casually, with warm emotion and without damnation. It’s an outlook on life that feels especially feminine and we need more voices like this in movies.

A strong supporting cast including Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Demitri Martin and Nick Offerman make up the film’s tiny ensemble and they are all memorable. While the story of thirty-something aimlessness might not be especially original on a basic plot level, the sheer pleasure of watching all these people on screen, against this very specific backdrop elevates it into something far more entertaining and fresh. The film becomes less exciting as it ticks by. A plot that has been slowly developing in the first two acts kicks into overdrive in the final twenty minutes and culminates in a very “movie” finale that comes across a bit too suddenly and perfectly in contrast to the messy casualness and episodic structure of the film’s preceding acts. But again the optimism and characters are still a delight, and besides, Bell seems like a filmmaker more interested in escapism than realism. While the characters feel real, there’s a certain level of stylisation and music to how they interact that keeps them at home in a movie as opposed to a documentary.

I’m a big fan of this film and sorry I came to it three years late. I think Bell is a major talent, a strong presence both in front of and behind the camera, I can’t wait to see what this movie leads to in regards to her writing/directing career. Not only is she immensely watchable but she feels unique to herself. This isn’t just a brisk and entertaining little comedy, but a lovely adventure into the world of voice acting. I expect this to become a favourite as the years go by.

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