In the world of In a World..., the directing debut of preternaturally understated comic actress Lake Bell, voiceover work — specifically, the authoritative yet anonymous man-speak heard in movie trailers — is a field in which women aren’t welcome. Bell, who also wrote the script, plays Carol, an underemployed vocal coach who aspires to be a voiceover star like her callous, egomaniac father, Sam (Fred Melamed).
She isn’t just your garden-variety underachiever; Carol is so underachieving that, at age 31, she hasn’t changed her ward-robe since the 1990s. It’s one of the movie’s subtle oddball touches that Bell’s Carol, a tall drink of water if ever there was one, strides around unself-consciously — and a little cluelessly — in overalls and college-kid babydoll dresses. But even if she’s a neurotic goofball, she’s persistent. And with the help of smart but bashful sound engineer Louis (Demetri Martin), who harbors a crush on her, she scrambles to the top of the voiceover heap — only to earn the resentment of key players in the field, most notably her nasty old dad. Bell has made a lively, modern screwball comedy with a terrible title; the dialogue moves quickly and sometimes takes nutty, unexpected loops, like puppies scrambling over one another in a basket.
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Bell, who has so often played second or third banana (in pictures like It’s Complicated and No Strings Attached), makes a strangely fetching leading woman. The romance between Carol and Louis takes forever to get cooking; their mutual awkwardness is today’s equivalent of a bundling board. But it’s also part of their charm as a couple-in-training; their respective peculiarities fit together just right.
Aug. 23-29, 2013