Review: In a World...

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L: Fred Melamed and Lake Bell, R: Demitri Martin and Lake Bell in IN A WORLD...

In a World... is the kind of film you find yourself recommending to various friends the week after seeing it -- or at least I did. Lake Bell wrote and directed the feminist comedy*, in which she also plays Carol, a struggling female voiceover artist in a world of men, ahem. In between gigs -- which is most of the time -- she works as a vocal coach. When an opportunity arises for her to compete against men who are better known in the business, she takes it.

Carol has grown up in the shadow of her father, Sam Soto (Fred Melamed), a renowned voiceover artist. Sam hopes to hand off his legacy to heir apparent Gustav (Ken Marino, Wet Hot American Summer) and tells his daughter that the "industry does not crave the female sound." That's just a taste of the institutional sexism Carol has to confront. She stammers her way through awkward situations, yet she's utterly composed in the recording booth.

Director-star-writer Lake Bell, taken by Charles Ramírez BergBell's screenplay is hilarious and carefully constructed. Carol may be the protagonist, but the writer/director gifts the supporting characters with their own ordeals. "Little chaoses" is how Lake Bell referred to them during the Q&A (pictured at right) after the preview screening Austin Film Society hosted last week.

Sam has difficulty relating to his daughters and is feeling his age as his younger girlfriend Jamie (Alexandra Holden, who played Ross' younger girlfriend on Friends) moves in. Temptation comes into the lives of Carol's sister Dani (Michaela Watkins, Saturday Night Live) and her husband Moe (Rob Corddry, The Daily Show) with different results. Friendly Louis (comic Demetri Martin), who produces in the studio Carol frequents, nurses a crush on her. 

The talent of the cast Bell has assembled is impressive. When the camera zooms in on Bell or Watkins, it's magical to see multiple emotions flicker through their faces within a period of seconds. I wrote "Rob Corddry!!!" in my notes after a particularly moving scene between him and Watkins. Demetri Martin, whose act I usually find annoying, is sweetly affable here as Louis. Even side characters played by Tig Notaro and Nick Offerman seem fully developed, even though they have few lines. How great to see this group of comic actors together in one project, working with such material.

The title In a World... refers to the late voiceover artist Don LaFontaine's signature phrase. In fact, Bell had to get permission from his family to use it, and the opening credits serve as a dedication to him. For a movie shot in 20 days, In a World... is a wonderfully crafted modern screwball. Bell's empowering comedy is a joy, and I look forward to many repeated viewings. I'm hopeful she writes and directs more after this.

*not an oxymoron!

[Photo to the right: Lake Bell at the Austin Film Society preview screening by Charles Ramírez Berg, via Flickr]