The title of the new comedy In a World… isn’t meant to be read in a flat, monotonous voice. The words should be recited with the deep, guttural inflections of late voice-actor Don LaFontaine’s signature catchphrase for the start of epic film trailers. Once that realization sets in, viewers can understand the emphasis of the title and a peek into the premise for this film—out in select theaters today.
In a World… is Lake Bell’s (Children’s Hospital, It’s Complicated) directorial debut, and a film she also wrote and starred in. It’s a charming indie flick about the male-dominated world of voice-acting, and Bell’s character Carol Solomon as the disheveled and lanky voice coach who longs to get a foot in the door. Instead, she’s spending her time teaching actors how to perfect dialects—including Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives) on a Cockney accent. Carol’s the daughter of Sam Sotto (played by real-life voice actor Fred Melamed), one of the best voice-acting veterans in the industry whose velvety, baritone voice seduces TV commercials and trailers. At 30, she still lives with him until he amicably kicks her out to have his much younger fiancé Jamie (Alexandra Holden) move in with him.
Despite the film already being a blend of a comedy and drama, Bell manages to carefully weave in feminist undertones. People in the industry—including her father—reiterate to Carol throughout the movie that there’s no place for women in voice-acting. She sees a growing problem of women who talk like “sexy babies”—something she feels that reality TV has perpetuated, as she said in an interview with Terry Gross of Fresh Air—and want women to talk like women again.
Sound engineer Louis (portrayed by comedian Demitri Martin) is the extremely awkward, yet lovable goof who convinces Carol that she is talented enough to play with the big boys, and also pines for her in a typical rom-com fashion. Carol auditions for the voice-acting role of a lifetime for the first of a “quadrilogy” of an exaggerated The Hunger Games-type film (which pokes fun at the YA-saturated market), and lands the role, pushing talented and arrogant Gustav Werner (Ken Marino) out of the running. This sets off a chain of events changing the face of voice acting.
Concurrent storylines in the film–including the one about Carol’s sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) and loveable, doting husband Moe (Rob Corddry) flirting with infidelity, as well as Jamie teaching Sam some tough life lessons on growing up–add depth to Carol’s world. There are a lot of intersecting stories that would normally clutter a film, but Bell manages to make each story just as prominent to one another. Watkins’ emotional honesty is poignant, and supporting cast members Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) and Tig Notaro (The Sarah Silverman Program) add richness and humor to the story.
Bell’s story is empowering for women, and her writing is effective in telling a narrative about an industry largely unfamiliar to the common man, while interlacing witty humor throughout.