Not to be confused with IN THIS WORLD, a Michael Winterbottom documentary-style road movie about illegal immigration into the UK or JURASSIC WORLD, the mock trailer of which has just gone viral, IN A WORLD... is a film about voice-over artists. Not the former and much recognisable light entertainers who sell debt to older people but the booming voices that promise us epic adventure, impending cataclysm and twelve donuts for just two dollars and ninety nine cents.
IN A WORLD... is the feature debut of writer-director-actress and possessor of two surnames Lake Bell. It’s not her fault but she sounds like a corporation. I blame the board. Bell is a comedic actress who has made a respectful film about a niche subject. She will wish to know that the 3:30pm screening at a Central London multiplex (Fulham Road Cineworld) was 90% full. All right, it was raining. OK, Chelsea played yesterday. But it’s film about enunciation – no wonder people in the Kensington area of London want to see it.
It reminded me of a date I had that suggested we go Dutch; she was perplexed when I started stretching my A’s. Vowel cancer, she called it.
Bell plays vocal coach Carol Solomon, who at the start is tutoring Eva Longoria to talk cockney. (I know it was a joke, but that’s like taking lessons from Dick Van Dyke, the accent of evil.) Her father (Fred Melamud) is the legendary voice-over coach, Sam Soto. The film begins with a documentary tribute to the late Don LaFontaine, a legend in the profession, who boomed out the immortal phrase ‘In a World’, for example, ‘in a world where a leading actress is reduced to cheap cameos’. That’s right - I’m talking about you, Hollywood star who pops up in THE AMAZON GAMES at the end. (No, it’s not Jennifer Lawrence.)
It begins proper with Sam kicking Carol out so that his 23 (or 26) year old acolyte can move in. (‘I’m enabling you by disabling you.... Can you move out today?’) Carol cannot survive on freelance work. She moves in with her married sister, Danielle (Michaela Watkins) who works as a concierge in a Los Angeles Hotel. Carol is forever trying to capture new accents; she wants to record an Irish accent and, oh girl, sister code, one of her guests has one. (Aidan Quinn turns up as a film director guest or should I say he guest stars as a hotel guest, or since he is a threat to marital accord, he is just there for the soap.) Danielle’s husband (Rob Corddry) is charmed by the Englishwoman upstairs (Talulah Riley), especially when she uses their shower. This actually has a pay-off involving the loan of a red dress to Carol.
Carol gets an enormous piece of luck when a leading artist, Gustav Warner (Ken Marino) gets sick. Her guide track for a trailer for WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE GYM, a romantic comedy for kids (like, that’s a genre – seriously this is a line from the movie) is accepted as the actual voiceover track. More gigs come her way. She is actually stealing work from Warner. Then she goes to a party with her father and his live-in lover and clocks eyes on Gustav’s quiet room of props – she’s like Alice entering Wonderland. Gustav corners her, compliments her, then gives exactly the sort of full-on kiss that a voice-over artist protecting his vocal chords would do; he kisses her nose.
There is a fantastic piece of physical comedy when Carol retrieves her bra which Gustav has a finger on. As she leaves, she’s spotted by the maid; the over-paid Russian immigrant community gets a-chatting.
When Gustav boasts that he’s bedding his voice-over rival, Sam is impressed. (‘She’s messing with the scorpion.’) What he doesn’t know is that it is his daughter. It all builds to the battle of voice-over artists; Demetri Martin as Carol’s colleague becomes her coach and admits his crush on her. He gives her bedroom; cue awkward goodnight scenes in which he talks about the light switch being near the bed. (‘It took ages to set it up.’)
Bell is particularly good at behavioural comedy and using a sandwich party for a kiss and make up moment. The film is ostensibly about cultivating the female voice. Relax, guys, there are laughs for you too.
A real-life Amazon, Geena Davis, turns up at the end and it’s great to see her; a real role model. She gives a great bathroom speech about truths in the world; how it is important to make gestures when you can.
IN A WORLD... is a bit like a situation comedy. I can’t say it’s a great film; it’s a little too schematic, that is, everything works out too neatly, too happily, Jeeps, it’s like a Hollywood movie. I expected bigger laughs but I did like Demitri Martin leaping up in the street to get Carol’s attention. (‘There’s ADHD in my family.’)
The cinema where I saw IN A WORLD... didn’t have a poster. I think they’re relying on word of mouth, which for a film about voice over artists seems appropriate. As for Bell, we wait to see if she can deliver the epic voice-over tones. I can report that she demonstrates movie trailer talent.
Reviewed at Cineworld Fulham Road, Screen Three, 15:30 screening. It was preceded by trailers for FILTH, GIRL MOST LIKELY, RUNNER RUNNER and DON JON. (None of these used voice-overs.)