In a World… is a simple little film, made better and stronger because it welcomes an angel on a lesser-known field in film that many will underestimate and likely shortchange. That field is the creation of promotional-trailers, most specifically, the voice-overs in them. It all starts with vocal coach Carol Solomon (Lake Bell), who, while ambitious and dedicated to being a full-time voice-over for film trailers, lives in the shadow of her father, the go-to man for voice-overs, Sam Soto (Fred Melamed).
Sam cautions his daughter’s ambitions about working in the industry almost every single day, saying that while he’s not sexist, the industry kind of is. He says that studios want a powerful man to announce the content of their films (someone like the iconic Don LaFontaine, the most famous voice-over actor of all time). Carol then leaves her father’s house to live with her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) and her husband Moe (Rob Corddry), so she can work with less of a browbeating force.
As it turns out, there is a new “quadrilogy” of films coming out under the name “The Amazon Games,” and the studio needs someone to do voice-over work for their trailers. This leads to Sam, Carol, and young voice-over-artist-in-the-making Gustav Warner (Ken Marino) to all compete for the one gig. Carol has a strong force on her side – Louis (Demitri Martin), the nerdy sound engineer with a crush on her – but Sam and Gustav have learned how to manipulate and monopolize the business to get what they want.
Material like this simply wouldn’t have worked had writer, director, and producer Lake Bell examined the voice-over industry with a very basic look. The film is strong because Bell is willing to show the politics and art behind the profession, as well as the competitive nature such a niche market as. However, the film’s goal is compare and contrast the power a female voice has with a male voice. In 2013, this sort of concept seems a bit dated, but its relevance is still there, as we are told of Hollywood’s lasting modest view of women in the industry.
Bell doesn’t hesitate to examine the way people feel about a man’s voice apart from a female’s voice. Her character Carol loves to go out in public and subtly record people’s voices for her archives, and can’t miss an opportunity when she finds a woman with an obnoxiously squeaky voice and very high-pitched vocal chords. Carol recognizes that many women possess a voice that seems very passive and harmless, rather than strong, independent, and domineering. When recording, Carol’s voice can go quite a few octaves higher; one of her many goals in life is to show many women’s voices can go that high as well.
Bell infuses In a World… with a likable, but thankfully downplayed romance and an eye deeply focused on the voice-over industry and its guidelines and code of conduct. The film has many ideas, some of which, like the treatment of female voice artists in Hollywood and the relationships with the supporting characters such as Dani and Moe, seem to get lost in the shuffle. However, there’s some clearly inspired filmmaking occurring here, and it leaves people with a new writer and director to look out for.
Review by Steve Pulaski, Special to Influx Magazine