Director: Lake Bell
Cast: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Nick Offerman, Demetri Martin
Watch In a World… online in the UK: TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Lake Bell has been a solid presence in what are usually lighter weight Hollywood comedies for the last few years, but lately she’s been stretching out to show that there are more strings to her bow. Her feature directorial debut, In a World…, which she also wrote, more than achieves her aim: it’s a distinctive, charming and consistently entertaining effort.
Already getting fans of cinema on-side is the general setting of the story. Starting off with a crash course on the nature of trailer voiceovers (including some lovely footage of legend Don Lafontaine talking about his work), the film depicts an environment we can’t say we’ve ever seen before: the world of the voiceover artist, which forms the basis for a film, which, in a rather meta way, shows Bell’s character breaking out of what is expected of her and finding her own unique place. She’s quick witted, clumsy but never kooky, and hits a balance which has a feel of being lived in very well.
The nature of her character is explored through her relationship with her father, wonderfully played by Fred Melamed, whose egotistical, highly selfish but still strangely warm persona never feels like a caricature and hits an essence of real that impresses. Bell’s chemistry with him helps; her general way around him seems almost defeated from the start and an air of impotent exasperation towards him constantly abounds. This lasts for longer than you’d think. While certain areas of the film’s narrative conform to expectations, the film is brave in just how far it drives Melamed’s character into being such a prick towards his daughter.
The film’s other successes are connected to more expected areas of the narrative, although they are performed perfectly well. Demitri Martin’s awkward but sweet bond with Bell helps lift up some fairly standard issue “will they, won’t they” stuff and Rob Corddry and Michaela Watkins lift material that doesn’t feel entirely appropriate to the film as a whole. Other side characters don’t get much to do but nail whenever they are on-screen: Ken Marino is very funny as an increasingly bemused competitor in the voiceover world and Nick Offerman provides a solid comic foil to Martin’s character. There are a lot of standout people in the film and it’s to Bell’s credit that she gives them their due.
Like the recent Don Jon, In a World… does show that an actor turned director can put out some damn solid work first time round, even if not all the elements hit home quite as well as you’d like. This is a great calling card to see what Bell can do next.