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September 24, 2018

In a World…

by Franz Patrick


In a World… (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

Since the death of Don LaFontaine, whose voice was used in thousands of movie trailers, Sam (Fred Melamed) has booked one gig right after another. Because of his talent, a lot of people might say he is a very worthy successor. His daughter, Carol (Lake Bell), also knows a thing or two about voices and makes a living as a freelance voice coach. Though she wishes to lend her voice in movie trailers, her father is less than supportive. He is convinced that the industry simply does not crave a female sound. He is proven wrong, however, when Carol’s voice becomes the frontrunner in the upcoming epic quadrilogy called “The Amazon Games.”

“In a World,” written and directed by Lake Bell, is not without laughs. It has occasional fits of chuckles and giggles but the story meanders just enough, perhaps because of the many supporting characters that are worthy of more screen time, to take away from Carol’s story: a woman who wants to make it in a business that is dominated by men.

It is not scathing enough. When it does eventually deal with real pain, like the rivalry between father and daughter that makes the final third engaging, it is too late. It wants to be a very light comedy but one can almost feel the material begging to be sharper. There are not enough scenes, overt and subtle, that feel honest about how women are treated in this field. We get only a scene or two that depicts the real struggle and complications in the business—one of which involves an intense interaction in the ladies’ restroom.

Bell has a great charm about her. I enjoyed how expressive she is and how she knows how to make a throwaway joke or line sound inspired enough. Some of these lines verge on sitcom but I laughed at them—most of them anyway. Even a romantic possibility between Carol and a co-worker named Louis (Demetri Martin) is almost too cute, but there is enough fine touches—quirky ones—that make their interactions quite delightful.

For me, the star of the picture is a married couple who seem to almost always argue. Just about each time Moe (Rob Corddry) and Dani (Michaela Watkins) are on screen, I wished the camera would stay with them for the rest of the day. They argue a lot but we feel the love between them. This is not to suggest that their subplot is fully developed. The central conflict between the two sort of just ends. I understood what they are going for but the resolution is not executed in such a way that feels satisfactory or complete.

“In a World” is filled with a range of voices, from those that are silky smooth to those that, well, silence could not arrive any sooner. But the movie might have benefited from having real fangs. There are cameos to be discovered here. At some point I wondered: Is the film’s priority to be likable or does it want its subject to be taken more seriously?

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