Aug. 2, 2013
Can a woman make it in the world of voice overs? The film "In A World..." probably doesn't answer that question, but it's still entertaining.
|Lake Bell in her directorial debut.|
Freshman feature director, writer, and star Lake Bell takes us on the charming journey of a daughter living in her father's shadow in one of Hollywood's niche industries: the world of voiceover.
Known by insiders to be dominated by a select few, Bell's script and film provide a simplified view of this very competitive career. Ignoring voiceover areas like cartoon voices, much of advertising, and many other arenas, Bell instead focuses on movie trailer voiceovers. This is really only the backdrop for a story about a daughter and her father, who compete, at first inadvertently, for the same high profile voiceover job.
|Trophy wife, Carol, and her father.|
The story is most successful in showing the realization a father has recognizing the talent of his daughter and getting over his own ego, with help from a surprising source; his fawning trophy wife, played very well by Alexandra Holden.
|Louis, played by Dimitri Martin.|
But Bell's character, Carol Solomon, is intended to be the main character, the one the story is about. The film presents a well rounded portrait of a woman struggling in a male dominated industry. Her interactions with her sister and the men in her life provide a fresh take on the "oops, I made a romantic mistake" and "oops, I didn't know the guy I want wants me", a romance plot line that is the B story. Bell, alongside Dimitri Martin as her studio engineer and obvious fanboy Louis, provide an awkward but adorable (without being over-the-top "adorkable") journey into a relationship.
|Yes, awkward people can be nice and|
also get together. Yay!
For me personally, I really enjoyed the idea that if a guy isn't aggressive, it's okay for the woman to let him know what she wants. The give and take in their romance was refreshing and welcome, and frankly I'd like to see a pure romantic comedy in this vein from Bell and Martin.
However, the story's main thrust left me divided. Spoilers ahead. Carol finds herself given the opportunity to compete with her dad and his presumed replacement (Ken Marino as a perfectly offered Gustav) for the big voice over gig: taking the reigns from the now diseased Don LaFontaine, the king of all trailers, by getting to use his trademark line (and the title of the film) "In a world...".
Through various hijinks and confusions, Carol ends up with the job. Up to there, I was with the film. Then, a monkey wrench is thrown in. At the ceremony where the trailer with her voice is revealed, Carol encounters the producer of the film the trailer was made for, Katherine Huling, played with expected aplomb by Geena Davis. It is there that Carol discovers that, while she is certainly competent, she wasn't chosen because she was the best for the job; she was chosen because she was a woman. Davis' character makes it clear that the reason isn't just so that a woman would get the job, but that Carol will be an inspiration for other women and girls to pursue careers dominated by men. This is then followed up not by Carol getting more and more big gigs, but by her teaching other women to speak well in their jobs. Which isn't far from what she was doing before her big shot.
That message isn't really a problem. Even having her go back to help other women do better isn't a problem for me either; that's what every new ethnic group entering into American capitalism has done over the last 200 years, and I support that. I don't even think I have a problem with women doing what men have done during that time: give their competent buddies a chance, even when guys they don't know well might be better for a job.
|She's good enough. Why can't that be good enough?|
Where I'm disappointed is that throughout the film, the men in voiceover keep saying that the public doesn't want women to do voiceovers for film trailers. Somehow, women aren't as good. I guess my issue is that it seemed to me like Carol was as good as the men, so why does the film appear to take her down a notch? There's no "you'll eventually be as good" or "they're only better qualified because they've been doing it longer". Just "you weren't the best person for the job". I think doing that undermines the point of the film, at least as I perceived it.
Still, there's so much to enjoy in this, and if you come from the perspective of "not every story has to make the hero the best", then it is a successful film. Or, to put it another way, "In a future where women and men really are treated equally, this film's end won't seem so out of place." Ahem.
This is no blockbuster film; it's indie fare, and successfully so. All of the characters are fairly well realized (with Nick Offerman and Tig Notaro providing some lovely work as Martin's boss and coworker, and a shot out to Eva Longoria for having a sense of humor about herself), the directing is first rate - nothing seems to drag, there's a lot of laughter (although some of it is inside Hollywood stuff) - and the story is reasonably believable. What's more, while there are plenty of sub-plots going on - I counted up to at least an E story - I was never confused, and I didn't feel like any of the stories were abandoned or given more attention than they deserved. Very deft work in what could have been a mush.
Definitely see this if you get the chance. My theatre dollars tend to go to films that require the big screen to see, which this doesn't, but when this comes to any of the myriad of home screen options, it should be at the top of your list.
Which brings me to one last point: with a film like this, I now see why it makes sense for some films to be released at home at the same time as in theatres. Some films inspire one to make a night of going to the movies. I'm not sure this one does. But I also think it's a film that could be very well enjoyed opening week from home. Part of me wants to insist you see this in the theatre, so that it will do well, because I like so much of it. But I have to be honest that this is a relationship film first and foremost. No special effects, sound design is excellent and appropriate to the material, which means epic 3D and giant movie theatre speakers aren't required. There's nothing about the film that says you must see it in a theatre, and yet it's not a made for TV movie, it's a full fledged film. That said, I still can't bring myself to insist you must see it in a theatre. If you regularly see films about how people relate to each other in the theatre, you will definitely want to see this. Otherwise, see it at your first chance from the convenience of you living room. It's very good.
In a World...
In theatres August 7.
8 out of 10 sibilances