It’s lovely when a film proves to be a surprise and you certainly get that with IN A WORLD… Lake Bell’s very funny, very smart comedy.
Lake Bell blows you away with her talent with IN A WORLD… her Sundance-winning comedy which she wrote, directs and stars in. Having seen the trailer to the movie before its release in 2013, I thought it looked a sharply observed, very witty comedy and now I’ve finally caught up with it, I have to say it didn’t disappoint.
Bell is Carol, a gifted twenty-something voice coach, struggling to build a career whilst still living at home with her overbearing father Sam (a nicely pompous Fred Melamed). She has a slightly fractious relationship with her sister Dani (played with just the right balance of confidence and fragility by Michaela Watkins) and a buddy-style one with Dani’s good-natured husband Moe (the excellent Rob Corddry). She’d like to get into voiceovers for movie trailers but it’s a forlorn hope as the industry is dominated by men, particularly her father and his snotty protege Gustav (a lovely smooth turn by Ken Marino) and the legacy of the famous Don LaFontaine, who coined the legendary “IN A WORLD…” But perhaps the tide is turning and with the help of Demetri Martin’s sweet sound engineer Louis, she might just get her shot.
However, the real cleverness in Bell’s script – which took the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance 2013 – is the way it nimbly moves from real laugh-out-loud moments to scenes of real pathos, without hitting a false note or skipping a beat. Carol needs to move out from the stifling, competitive home atmosphere she shares with her dad but it takes his new relationship with Alexandra Holden’s perky young Jamie for the change to begin. She does move out but only as far as her sister’s couch, creating all manner of problems when she asks Dani to record an interesting voice for her at the hotel where she works. This leads to a terrible mistake that Bell as both writer and director deftly orchestrates for maximum power. You feel the comedy is about to get a whole lot darker but it doesn’t go there, Bell just illustrates another colour in her script, how lives can shatter or be mended in a single moment and it makes IN A WORLD… really stand out as a well-constructed piece of work.
I only knew Bell up to this point as an actor, remembering her as Alec Baldwin’s caustic new wife in the comedy It’s Complicated but she completely shines here as an actor, writer and director – no mean feat. The brilliance of her script was obviously recognised by some shrewd Hollywood players because she gets Eva Longoria to do a spot-on cameo and Cameron Diaz to lead a band of Amazonian warriors in a movie trailer.
And opposite the extremely talented actor/comedian Demetri Martin, you see a performance that’s been likened to a young Lucille Ball. Carol and Louis make a wonderfully wacky pair, adeptly delivering Bell’s razor-sharp dialogue with polished aplomb. The film leaves you with a real feeling of enjoyment, of a story very well told, that not only makes you laugh but also touches on big themes such as family ties, self-confidence, temptation and forgiveness.
Let’s see more like this please, Ms Bell.