‘In a World…’
Director: Lake Bell
Stars: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed
3 (out of 5) Globes
“In a World…” is set in the realm of movie trailer voiceover artists — an unusual subject in more ways than one. Trailers are moving away from the classic purple descriptions read by stentorian — and almost always male —narrators towards a more text-plus-audio clip structure. Even when it was hot, as it still is in this indie comedy, it was ridiculously competitive. Historically one only heard one or two baritone tones, and most of the time that was Don La Fontaine who, not long before his 2008 death, was happy to mock the pomp of his craft in the memorable trailer for the Jerry Seinfeld documentary “Comedian.”
A memoriam for La Fontaine opens “In a World…” — named after his alleged most-used phrase — and the remainder of the film considers who will become his heir. Will it be aging, hairy pro Sam Soto (Fred Melamed, who routinely scene-stole “A Serious Man”), his protégé Gustav Warner (Ken Marino) or his cash-strapped daughter Carol Solomon (Lake Bell)? Bell has the disadvantage, not only because she’s a cloddish crap-magnet who sleeps too late and has to deal with the cartoonishly antiquated all-male world of her chosen profession. But she soon finds herself on the short-list to handle the entire run of a “quadrilogy” of lit adaptations for epics about Amazon warriors.
The world revealed in “In a World…”, though interesting, isn’t feature-length interesting. It quickly becomes apparent that Bell, who also wrote and directed (and produced), is only exploiting trailer narration as a silly backdrop for what is fast becoming a cliche: films about thirtysomething women who struggle to get their lives together. Like the heroes of “Bridesmaids” and “Frances Ha” (whose star is only nearing 30), Carol has cash, career and boy troubles, blurts out awkward things in social environs and is only truly comfortable around female friends (in this case, her sister, played by Michaela Watkins).
Carol is less prone to self-pity than her predecessors, while Bell, as a writer, has a decent gift for ridiculous non-sequiturs, like a gig that involves teaching Eva Longoria how to talk like a Cockney mob wife. She has an awkward likability that’s not too awkward, as though she had become used to her innate oddness. Still, the script often runs out of ideas, and its central character dispute — will old-fashioned dad warm up to his daughter competing with him for jobs? — feels insincere and jejune. It thinks it can charm its way out of deficiencies, and it’s usually right.