By Noah Cohen, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 20, 2013
In the esoteric world of movie-trailer voiceover actors, Don LaFontaine’s death leaves a talent vacuum in the industry, and when a new franchise proposes to resurrect LaFontaine’s iconic phrase, “In a world…” for its opening trailer, the few men left at the apex of the voice-actor world hustle for the opportunity to take up LaFontaine’s mantle. Then, out of nowhere, comes Carol Solomon.
In a World...
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Lake Bell (“No Strings Attached”) plays the lead, Carol, a couch-surfing voice coach living with her father, who is the premier voice actor left after the death of Don LaFontaine. When Carol scores a big break in her father’s voiceover world, it bruises the ego of the men in the trade. Everyone scrabbles to maintain dignity and everyone spectacularly fails. Meanwhile, the cast plays hot potato with family frictions and awkward subplots in a way that’s spontaneously touching.
Lake Bell also produced, wrote and directed this film. It won Sundance Film Festival’s Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and successfully resists the self-important wankery of film festival culture, but the clipped stuttering and cringing speechless lulls (meant to evoke organic awkwardness) feel occasionally overdone. Still, the well-developed characters and their equally well-developed relationships manage to create a legitimate heart-punching rom-com in background of the main plot — a huge feat for a relatively short (93-minute) festival film debut.
Audiences should recognize some of the cast names: Demetri Martin (“Important Things With Demetri Martin”) plays Louis, the dorky, overly supportive audio techie who produces Carol’s voice work. Fred Melamed (“The Dictator”) plays Carol’s father, Sam “Sotto” Solomon, with much feather-preening and sexist swagger. And Rob Corddry (Correspondent on “The Daily Show”) plays a cute supporting role as Carol’s sister’s boyfriend, Moe. The romantic subplot between Moe and Dani (Michaela Watkins, “Wanderlust”) is handled with the gracious warmth of a non-political environment, giving the audience needed reprieve from the ugly power game in the main plot.
When Sam Sotto does his voice exercises, “Me, me, me, me,” we take it as a subtle commentary on voice, agency and attitude. Carol makes a voice for herself in a world all about voice, and even after having found a space for herself (physically and figuratively), she’s screwed by her rival, by her father and even verbally beaten by the only other woman we see in the movie industry — who tells her, shockingly, that she only got the part because she was a woman. “In A World…” cuts a sympathetic vignette of what it means to make a voice for yourself in a world that doesn’t care to hear you.
This film inhabits a special place in Hollywood meta because it confronts and treaties with the bullshit that constitutes movie culture. To make a movie about some aspect of the movie-making industry isn’t a novel thing, but in movie-movies you rarely see Bell’s level of attention to the idiotic human sillinesses or painful egotistical pitfalls that make us secretly loathe ourselves. Thanks to Lake, Martin and Corddry, though, the bullshit doesn’t win out.
Expect to hear a lot more of Lake’s voice in the immediate future — hopefully, as a writer/director.