Thursday, September 19, 2013

In a World...

IN A WORLD…         C+                  
USA  (93 mi)  2013  d:  Lake Bell                    Official site

A somewhat offbeat, thoroughly likeable, but inordinately generic indie film about the competitive world of trailer voiceovers, a traditionally male-oriented business in Hollywood apparently owned by Don LaFontaine, an American voice actor famous for making over 5000 trailers along with hundreds of thousands of television commercials before his death in 2008, opening the door for new talent that includes women, generating a crack in the glass ceiling, a premise that should work a lot better than it does.  While Bell’s ability to do voices is hilariously goofy, especially when she’s seen with her hand recorder tracking down the sounds of people on the street speaking in different accents, literally mesmerized by the diverse inflections of the human voice.  Writer, director, producer, and lead actress Lake Bell suggest a major investment into what must be a highly personalized project.  Often feeling like it wants to be a Miranda July movie, but the plain truth is it’s not nearly as quirky or inventive, feeling more drawn by the numbers despite winning the Sundance Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, supposedly “For its laugh out loud comedic moments, its memorably drawn characters and its shrewd social commentary.”  Outside of the obvious message that women can do equally well what men do in the voiceover business, the material is surprisingly thin, taking a cynically self-centered, dysfunctional family drama and turning it into a gooey and marshmellowy feelgood moment by the end that is the equivalent of a group hug.  Based on everything that comes before, nothing changes, as it takes more than a public thank you to repair a lifetime of permanently undercutting generations of broken dreams. 

Fred Melamed is excellent as the self righteously overbearing but continually deluded father Sam, the man that got his daughter Carol (Lake Bell) interested in doing movie voiceovers in the first place, where she’s following in her father’s footsteps, but he constantly reminds her the industry isn’t ready yet for a woman’s voice.  Yet the film is shown through the eyes of his daughter, who has a ridiculously expressive range of voices, some laugh out loud funny while others express the dulcet tones of a professional announcer.  While her voice range is the most appealing aspect of the film, accentuated in the trailer 'In a World...' Trailer - YouTube (2:27), Bell also tries to write a meaningful drama about people too nervously self-absorbed to connect with one another.  While Sam is about to receive a lifetime achievement award by the trailer voiceover industry, he’s still fuming about being overshadowed by Don LaFontaine throughout his entire career.  And while he’s attempting to pass the mantle of his own success to his filthy rich protégée Gustav (Ken Marino), there remain unresolved family issues in his own life, as he’s got a groupie girlfriend Jamie (Alexandra Holden) who’s twenty years younger than he is, something that makes his daughters gag with disgust, still resentful about the way he abandoned their dead mother years ago.  After kicking his own daughter out of the house to make room for Jamie, she has nowhere else to turn but to her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins), who’s in the midst of a marital crisis with her husband Moe (Rod Corddry).  Everyone’s life seems to be in constant turmoil, all having their own personal issues to deal with.      

Despite Carol’s obvious talent, she’s relegated to the role of a speech coach, amusingly seen helping Eva Longoria learn a Cockney accent for a movie scene while also recording her own trailer, aided by her trusted confidant Louis (Demetri Martin), from Ang Lee’s TAKING WOODSTOCK (2009), who is the recording engineer with a secret crush on Carol, but she is too oblivious to see.  Carol’s sister Dani works as a hotel concierge, where the Irish brogue of Jason O’Mara, one of the guests at the hotel, inflames the desires of each sister, one for the voice inflection, the other for the constant barrage of flirtatious flattery.  When Moe finds out she’s been returning the attention, their marriage is suddenly on fragile grounds.  And when Carol lands a prestigious job, the first women to do so, her father nearly chokes on his food, as this does not conform to his view of the universe.  Being the competitive bastard that he is, he sets his own ambitions over his daughters and attempts to undermine her success by scoring the job through back door contacts.  Little of this is pretty, or funny, but is a scrambled mess of foul intentions and misread motives where the overriding desire to succeed at work clouds their judgment in personal relationships, all of which feeds into an overly somber feeling of gloom hovering over the lighter, more comedic moments.  The feelgood superficiality of the finale will be more than some can bear, where Geena Davis, of all people, rarely seen in movies anymore, offers the cliché’d moment of female empowerment where women’s voiceovers in trailers will make a world of difference in the next generation.  Not sure this repairs the damage of a lifetime of tarnished ambitions, both personally and professionally, but to the confidently assured sound of Tears for Fears Tears For Fears - "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" - ORIGINAL .. (3:11), not to mention an absurdly comic trailer for the futuristic mega million blockbuster The Amazon Games that features an uncredited Cameron Diaz as the masked Amazon leader, rest assured the future is a much better place.

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