The voices narrating famous film trailers are the deep and rasping hooks that draw or deter audiences from seeing a film. While these disembodied voices may be integral to selling a movie to potential viewers, it’s rare that these actors get a chance away from the studio and on to the big screen. “In a World…,” a Sundance award–winning film directed, produced, written by and starring Lake Bell, expertly brings these niche actors and their surprisingly competitive world to the forefront with extreme wit.
The film stars Bell as Carol Solomon, the underachieving and underemployed daughter of Sam Soto (Fred Melamed), one of the most successful voice-over actors in the business. Carol aspires to be as successful as her father, but is constantly put down by his competitive and sexist comments. At one point, Soto tells her “the industry just does not crave a female sound.” With pitiful prospects for her dream job, Carol makes ends meet with work as a vocal coach for celebrities like Eva Longoria. Her life changes one day when, during a test read, she is selected as the narrator of a major feature film’s trailer. As the voice acting gigs keep coming, she’s eventually put in the running for a major action-adventure feature quadrilogy, a huge job that places her in competition with voice-over royalty, including her tyrannical father.
Throughout this comedy, the dialogue is snappy and quick. It’s packed with humor, especially sarcasm. One of Carol’s favorite pastimes is quipping about the other characters. A common target is her father’s 20-something girlfriend, who, according to Carol, “has a Midwestern accent unironically.” All of the jokes land well, but some of the dialogue execution eventually becomes annoying. Characters talk over each other incessantly, which is funny at first, but the babbling quickly becomes tiresome.
This fast talking does, however, help get through all of the different storylines. Besides the overarching plot of Carol’s voice-acting career, the film covers her burgeoning love story with her manager, Louis (Demetri Martin); her sister’s marital troubles; and her father’s conniving discussions with other voice actors. Each storyline is completely fleshed-out and deep, leaving enough time for the actors to show incredible emotion while not lingering too long on one subject. This elevates the film from a simple underdog comedy to a deeper tale of human emotion and familial love.
All actors give surprisingly moving performances. Michaela Watkins and Rob Corddry — playing Carol’s sister Dani and brother-in-law Moe — portray the couple’s complex emotional turmoil well. These two actors are best known for their work on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show,” respectively, but they shine even when they aren’t telling jokes, though they do have an abundance of humorous lines.
While Bell and Martin convincingly play their extremely awkward, word-vomiting characters separately, their chemistry together misses the mark. Their exchanges are meant to be uncoordinated and a bit stiff, but together their awkwardness goes too far. It’s actually uncomfortable to sit through some of their scenes, especially as their romantic tension heats up. They continuously begin and end sentences, pausing and giggling nervously after interrupting each other, which needlessly delays much of the story.
Visually, the cinematography isn’t amazing, but it isn’t terrible. It’s fine. However, this doesn’t subtract from the film. If anything, it sets the characters in a more realistic environment, making their interactions seem like everyday life.
Despite some poorly-executed instances, the film’s snarky and hilarious dialogue is enough to carry it. Beyond that, the movie’s story is refreshing. It sheds light on an oft-ignored corner of Hollywood through the perspective of a woman who is also frequently swept under the rug in the still-sexist business. “In a World…” is a new take on an underdog story, and its snappy script makes it even more compelling.