Monday, October 7, 2013

In a World...

Last Month, I saw In A World... at the Balboa.

In A World...; starring Lake Bell; directed by Lake Bell; (2013) - Official Website

In a World (I'm going to drop the ellipsis from the title for convenience) has had an impressive run at the Landmark Shattuck.  It's still playing there.  I think it's been screening there since before Labor Day.  Not wanting to travel to Berkeley for the film, I was pleased that the Balboa booked it.

Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) is a struggling voice actor.  Her father is Sam Sotto (as in sotto voce), a legend in the voice-over industry.  He discourages his daughter from doing voice-overs for movie trailers because the industry is dominated by men such as himself and his protégé Gustav Warner (Ken Marino).  A new big-budget action film (The Amazon Games) is coming out and the action film voice-over legend Don LaFontaine (real person) has passed away leaving the competition for job wide open.  Sotto (Fred Melamed) has passed on the job, paving the way for his semi-retirement and the ascension of Warner.  Carol harbors desires to be the first big-budget film voice-over artist and has her eyes on The Amazon Games gig.

What follows is contrived comedy.  Sam is very chauvinistic and actively works against his daughter's ambitions.  Unbeknownst to Sam, Gustav and Carol have a one-night stand (Gustav is not initially aware of her parentage).  In addition, Sam's elder daughter Dani (the always radiant Michaela Watkins) is having marital problems with her husband Moe (Rob Corddry).  Finally, a sound studio engineer (Demetri Martin) has a secret crush on Carol.

These plot developments come fast and furious.  I'm sure the intended effect of all this should be wacky confusion but the laughs aren't quite there.  Sotto is a piece of work and makes you wonder how anyone, including his younger girlfriend, could love him.  Sotto's character sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise gentle comedy.  Not quite as discordant is Dani's affair which is understandable given the weary state of her marriage.  However, the subplot takes attention and energy away from the main plotlline which is moderately interesting.

The title of the film comes from LaFontaine's famous voice-over work in the 1980s and 1990s on action/apocalypse films where he gravely intones "In a world..."  The film made me wonder who does those Monster Truck Show ads - "Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!"

Lake Bell, who I presume did her own voice work in the film, has a great talent for mimicry and can adapt her voice for the full gamut of situations - sexy voice, Valley Girl voice, serious voice, etc.  I wonder if Bell really does voice-over work or has desires to do so.  I can't take my eyes off Michaela Watkins (Afternoon Delight & Enough Said).  Looking quite a bit like Lisa Edelstein, Watkins has a screen presence outsized to the roles I have seen her in.  I hope she gets a leading role soon.

In a World is not a great film or even particularly funny.  Many of the jokes were greeted with silence from the audience.  Also, the ending was surprisingly bittersweet.  Carol gets the job for the "wrong" reasons and the reasons validate her father's male-centric views of the industry.  I assume Bell wanted to not end with a "happily ever after" ending but In a World felt as though Bell's reach exceeded her grasp - she has an interesting story idea but couldn't quite get it right in the film.  Mixing metaphors since Bell is a car enthusiast, In a World was not firing on all cylinders.

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