There always have been and forever shall be movies made about making movies.
For In a World, though, Lake Bell has set her directing debut within a previously unexplored milieu, the highly competitive world of voice-over performers, within the “film industry” genre. And as director, writer, producer and star, it’s a milieu she clearly has a lot of affection for as she softly pokes fun at it.
Her end result is an amiable, innocuous form of entertainment. The script is another iteration of the naif lost in the woods with the wolves storyline that goes back to the time of The Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra (1928) by Robert Florey and Slavko Vorkapitch.
But, while Bell includes a modest theme of female empowerment and gives her character misogynist forces to overcome, the script has no sharp teeth to really rip and tear into the subject. The lessons that all characters need to learn are, spoiler alert, learned. That’s not much spoiling since it’s clear from the outset that Bell’s character, Carol, is not set to share the same fate as poor, pitiful 9413.
The film mostly succeeds on the basis of its personalities, and Bell stocks her cast with lots of good ones, including Rob Corddry as her friendly brother-in-law, Demetri Martin as the sad sack with a crush on her and Ken Marino as the lech who develops a crush on her.
Who is really terrific in the film is Fred Melamed, who stars as Carol’s overbearing, egotistical and hyper-mysoginist father. He has the voice that make him sound like a successful voice-over artist, but he imbues his character with the same great sleazy “this crap I’m pulling is really the best thing for you” that he brought to Sy Ableman in A Perfect Man.
Bell is also extremely charming as a lead character, one we want to see succeed in her awkwardly chosen profession. And it makes sense. Those classic movie trailer voice-over artists, when you think about it, are all male. Yet, when Bell digs for her best baritone, she makes a highly convincing argument that it must be a case of industry-wide misogyny that have kept women from certain studio recording booths.