REVIEW: In A World

23 08 2013

In a world where the movies began to buckle under the weight of copious cliches, one movie dared to be different.  It was not a romantic comedy yet still had romance.  It was not a drama but managed to tackle serious issues convincingly.

While I might have made Lake Bell’s “In a World” sound like some kind of panacea, it’s really just a nice, simple movie that does a lot of things very right.  As a feature debut for Bell (who I only knew from her supporting turns in “It’s Complicated” and “No Strings Attached“), the film is certainly promising for many great things to come.  She makes no major missteps in her finely-tuned comedy, but it is rather safe and risk-free.

Bell also wrote the film’s script, which contains a smart and well-observed feminist critique.  In a summer where “The Heat” was the only major studio release with a female protagonist, “In a World” opens up a fascinating dialogue about sexism and male hegemony in the art of voice-overs.  While much of the film is industry-specific, Bell gives us plenty of food for thought about women in any workplace.  She even manages the current impasse for many women between symbolic affirmative action and equal judgment with finesse.

In a World

And if writing and directing wasn’t enough, Bell goes full Woody Allen and stars in the film too.  Her character, Carol Solomon, is battling for the ability to narrate the trailer for a “Hunger Games“-esque epic quadrilogy.  To get that job, however, she must fend off her insanely competitive father Sam Soto (Fred Melamed of “A Serious Man“) and his protege, the goofy lothario Gustav Warner (Ken Marino).  Not to mention, she also has to battle against a ruthlessly ingrained misogyny in the world of voice-overs, which rarely rely on female voices to pitch and advertise products to consumers.

“In a World,” despite being just over 90 minutes, manages to squeeze in more than just Carol’s story as well.  Not unlike “Hannah and Her Sisters” (though without all the philosophical and existential postulating), Bell involves us in the lives of Carol’s friends and family along the journey.  We experience the frustrated marriage of her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) to the somewhat aloof Moe (Rob Corddry) as well as her awkward flirtation with her good-hearted co-worker Louis (Demetri Martin).  Bell nails all these familial dynamics, making her film an always entertaining watch even thought it might skimp on deep characterization.  B2halfstars

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