Funny Lady Lake
In a world where talented but underemployed people often become multitaskers to control their own destiny, Lake Bell has given herself a world-class showcase — and created something hugely entertaining in the bargain — by writing, directing and starring in In a World….
Even if you recall her scene-stealing turns in What Happens in Vegas and It’s Complicated, and even if you’ve been amused by her antics in the cable series Children’s Hospital, you won’t be prepared for her pitch-perfect performance in this wise and witty dramedy.
She triumphs over adversity, defies conventionality and strikes a blow for non-sexist rationality.
Like many of the better screen comedies, In a World… is at heart a coming-of-age story about a character who gradually, sometimes painfully, emerges out of arrested adolescence.
And if you’ve ever wondered about the folks who spout such hyperbolic come-ons for a living on every other movie trailer you’ve ever seen — well, you’ll have even more reason to sing Lake Bell’s praises in this movie.
Bell smartly cast herself — and wrote some very funny dialogue for herself — as Carol Solomon, a struggling thirtysomething voice-over artist who’s still living at home with her father, Sam (Fred Melamed), a living legend in the world of voice-over artistry. She feels more than a little uncomfortable and intimidated while in his imposing shadow.
Dad is the worst sort of overbearing egotist — that is, the kind who assumes he is irresistibly charming even while he’s at his most selfish — but grant him this: He indirectly shakes Carol out of her day-to-day drudgery of complacency and underachievement when he tells her it’s time to move out of his place.
To be sure, he does this for typically self-serving reasons — he wants Carol out of the way so his much younger girlfriend (Alexandra Holden) can move in — but the eviction serves not only as a means to propel the plot, but also as additional incentive for Carol to push even harder to establish herself in a field traditionally dominated by men like her father.
And, not incidentally, like Gustav Werner (Ken Marino), Sam’s evident heir apparent in the world of voice-overing, a preening cad whose charms make him unfortunately irresistible, briefly, to Carol.
Movie characters galore
Like many (if not most) of the better screen comedies these days, In a World… is at heart a coming-of-age story about a character who gradually, sometimes painfully, emerges out of arrested adolescence. But even though Carol is a captivating and fascinating lead character, and even though Bell the actor plays her with immensely appealing charm and an impressive arsenal of comedic skills, Bell the writer-director is too savvy and generous a filmmaker to make Carol the sole focus of the film.
Among the well-cast and vividly drawn satellites in Carol’s orbit: Dani (Michaela Watkins), Carol’s sister, who’s just discontent enough with her predictable life to consider an assignation with a guest at the hotel where she works; Moe (Rob Corddry), Dani’s supportive but unexciting husband, whose reaction to his wife’s contemplation of infidelity provides one of the movie’s most potent emotional impacts; Louis (Demetri Martin), a sound engineer who’s sweet on Carol but too nice a guy to immediately make his intentions known; and Eva Longoria, who’s a tremendously good sport about playing — well, herself.
In a World… persuasively depicts various specifics of the world where Sam is a god, Gustav is an ascending star and Carol would settle for being gainfully employed. The quirks and competitiveness of this world seem as real — and as engaging — as the idiosyncrasies and aspirations of the characters who populate it.
In other words: Chalk up In a World… as a triumph on both sides of the camera for Lake Bell.