Known to few for her supporting turns in such rom-coms as It’s Complicated and No Strings Attached, actress Lake Bell takes a leap into the forefront with In A World. This superbly written treasure of a film, which premiered to wows from critics and audiences alike at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, delves into the unseen world of trailer voiceover artists and not only proves Bell’s worth as an actress, but also marks her arrival as a proficient writer and director.
Living in the shadows of her unsupportive father, Sam (Fred Melamed), in a male-orientated profession, Carol (Bell) is somewhat out-of-her-depth, biding her time working as a vocal coach and stalking unsuspecting members of the public to increase her vocal abilities. But when a studio shows interest in reviving the revered “in a world” phrase for a new quadrilogy, Carol seizes the opportunity to prove herself, even if it means tackling some suppressed family issues in the process.
There’s various elements that make up the films whole (a blossoming romance between Carol and her workmate Louis and Carol’s sister’s turbulent marriage are two of the most arresting sub-plots), but it’s fair to say that the film hits its mark when focused on the sector of Hollywood it so shrewdly – and uniquely – examines. The script is both exquisitely informed and structured, and there’s a tremendous amount of humanity built in through Bell’s truthful writing style that makes it every bit relatable.
It’s anchored by a superb performance from Bell. As an actress, she’s paid her fair share of dues by starring as the sidelined support in mediocre rom-com after mediocre rom-com, so it’s satisfying to see her finally able to demonstrate her true ability. It’s unsurprising, too, to see her write such broad and characterful roles for the supporting cast, none of whom are left in the lurch – even Eva Longoria as an actress trying to nail the cockney accent is terrific in what’s no more than a cameo appearance.
The direction is modest, yet wonderful nonetheless. But it’s the satirical and forthright tone created through her words and her upfront unwillingness to conform to any kind traditional expectations – stylistically or otherwise – that truly sets the film apart. The film carves its own path, and it’s all the more successful and rewarding for it. And what’s more it avoids preaching too loudly about feminism. There’s just the right amount to ensure a message is delivered with all the wit and artistry.