So how’s this for a hokey rom-com concept? A struggling female vocal coach yearns to crack the weirdly cutthroat and male-dominated niche field of movie-trailer voice-overs. The stiffest competition comes from her own oblivious, complacently sexist father, Sounds fun, yes?
OK, maybe not, but unabashed idiosyncrasy is what makes Lake Bell’s movie In A World… one of the year’s standouts. It’s also a great showpiece for Bell, who wrote, directed and starred in it.
So many modern showbiz spoofs get too smarmy and self-referential, too stuffed with bitter inside jokes. Not this one. Instead of self-congratulation, Bell trades in self-deprecation — the kind that requires great confidence. Doling out professional and romantic foibles with classic screwball panache, she lets an already odd scenario become sublimely silly, but never at the expense of accessibility.
In A World… rightly won the Sundance 2013 Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for its brisk pacing, laugh-out-loud humor and wit. But it really comes to life when playing out on the screen. This is very much Bell’s movie, of course — it’s her feature debut — but it’s also distinctly an ensemble piece, and Bell generously lets her many supporting players shine and seem essential.
Bell, 34, came up as an actor in TV shows like How to Make It In America and Childrens’ Hospital (the latter from which she imported a few In A World… co-stars). Until now, her movie work mostly consisted of supporting parts in the occasional Ashton Kutcher trifle. Here at last we see the totality of her talent: In A World… is funny and daffy and refreshingly well executed; it’s a fine example of the self-made breakthrough.
So how’s this for a trailer narration? In a world of solemn, self-serious, award-worthy films, one woman’s triumph of hilarity might become every moviegoer’s salvation.