Carol Salomon is an under-ambitious vocal coach who has lived in the shadows (and the home) of her dad, Sam (Fred Melamed), the current master of the movie trailer voiceover. When his much younger girlfriend, Jamie (Alexandra Holden), moves in, Sam unceremoniously throws his daughter out. This shakeup in her life proves to be for the good as she decides to pursue a career of her own in the voiceover biz and earn the right to say the words “In a World….”
This is the first feature for actress Lake Bell who dons the cloak of starring role as well as wearing writing and directing hats. She shows that she can do it all with her heartfelt homage to the King of the Voiceover, Don LaFontaine, who recorded the trailer voiceovers for over 5000 movies! The story brings Carol, and immerses us, into the movie v.o. biz. Bell skillfully gives us a history of the business and puts us among those pursuing that career. (At a cocktail party, those in the biz cluster together and regale each other with their stories about the job. It is all very believable and humorous.)
Bell makes good use of her vocal skills and proves a vocal chameleon, changing voices in an instant. The arc of Carol’s professional career, though, is matched by her personal story of not finding love when it is right under her nose. Louis (Demitri Martin), Carol’s sound engineer, has a crush on her but keeps it hidden. When she sleeps with one of her competitors, Gustav (Ken Marino), Louis is devastated but, still, hides his emotions. You hope, as the story unfolds, that boy will get girl.
Carol also has to cope with Sam, who takes every opportunity to belittle his daughter while always lauding his own accomplishments. Fred Melamed embodies Sam and does a great job portraying a man quite full of himself. (His vanity license plate reads: ANUNC8.)
Carol's (Lake Bell, "It's Complicated," TV's 'Childrens Hospital') always dreamed of going into the male ruled movie trailer voice over business that her dad, Sam Soho (Fred Melamed, "A Serious Man"), has dominated ever since the death of Don La Fontaine. When she unwittingly snatches a coveted job from her father's protege Gustav (Ken Marino, TV's 'Childrens Hospital,' "We're the Millers"), Sam throws his hat in the ring too, making Carol fight to be the first female voice to intone La Fontaine's infamous catchphrase "In a World..."
Actress Lake Bell won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting award at the 2013 Sundance film festival for this, her feature writing and directing debut, and while stronger films have emerged from that festival, it's easy to see why this was a favorite, especially for its writing. Bell has targeted a microcosm of the industry she works in and mixed in romantic comedy and family drama elements all while maintaining focus on her throughline and hilariously showcasing her own talent for mimicry.
Carol's old man, is too competitive to be supportive and, having found a girlfriend his daughter's age, announces he'll no longer support her financially as Jamie (Alexandra Holden, TV's 'Rizzoli & Isles') is moving in. Still trying to cobble a living together, Carol moves in with her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins, HBO's 'Enlightened') and brother-in-law Moe (Rob Corddry, "Warm Bodies"). A call from Louis (Demetri Martin) with a job to help Eva Longoria (good sport) stop from sounding like 'a retarded pirate' while playing an Irish maid leads to Carol's big break when an engineer needs a temp voice track for a trailer for the first of a "Hunger Games"-like 'quadrilogy.' The producer loves the product so much, Carol's told she's got the job.
What she doesn't know is that Louis is carrying a torch for her and he fumbles asking her to a voice cast party. Carol's already going and ends up hooking up with the host, Gustav, when she finds a secret panel to his 'private room.' Meanwhile, Moe has a "Seven Year Itch" moment when neighbor Pippa (Talulah Riley, "Pirate Radio") asks to use the shower and Dani goes too far when interviewing an Irish hunk (Jason O'Mara) at the behest of her sister to study his accent.
Bell's got a great ear for witty dialogue that still feels utterly natural coming from her unique cast of characters. Upon learning that Jamie's moving in with dad she tells Dani 'she smells like lifesavers and has a Midwestern accent unironically.' Louis begins acting crazy on the street to get Carol's attention, calling the device 'positive roadblocking.' Character defining details abound too, like Dani's love for her husband's 'sandwich bar' or Sam's ANUNC8 license plate or the different techniques used for vocal exercises.
Bell nails the desperation of a thirtysomething still trying to find her way and she and Watkins really feel like sisters, especially when sharing their disgust over dad's behavior and the young women who find him sexy. Melamed wields his mellifluous voice like proof of superiority while ostensibly soothing his daughter's worries (and has no qualms showing off his furry exterior in a steam bath scene). The movie also features comedienne Tig Notaro, 'Parks and Rec's' Nick Offerman, Geena Davis and Jeff Garlin as himself. When it's finally unveiled, watch for an uncredited Cameron Diaz in that much discussed trailer.
"In a World..." is funny and heartfelt but best of all, it's a 'workplace' comedy not constrained by a literal workplace where the minutiae of a niche industry are worked every which way by a filmmaker to watch.
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