Lake Bell in IN A WORLD ... (Seamus Tierney/Roadside Attractions)

Lake Bell in IN A WORLD … (Seamus Tierney/Roadside Attractions)

Written & Directed by Lake Bell
Produced by Bell & Jett Steiger
Released by Roadside Attractions
USA. 93 min. Rated R
With Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Demetri Martin, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Rob Corddry, Nick Offerman, Tig Notaro, Alexandra Holden & Eva Longoria

In A World… poses a very intriguing concept. On the peripheries of competitive Hollywood, there is an equally cutthroat, ego-driven industry: the work of voice-overs. These artists are not concerned with voicing cartoons as much as becoming the narrator of a movie trailer. This comedy supposes there are only a few top-notch in this job pool working the trailer scene, and all happen to be men. Star (and writer, director, producer) Lake Bell plays the daughter of one of these hot shots trying to make a name for herself in the same field. It’s an off-kilter concept, to be sure, but Bell’s smart script and wonderful supporting cast makes it a fun and sweet story of finding your own path in life.

Carol Solomon (Bell) is an early 30-something struggling to make it. Her passion for her work is evident in her awkward attempts at “collecting” various accents. She lives with her father, Sam Sotto (played with delightful bravado by Fred Melamed), who’s very well-known in the industry, and he seems somewhat supportive of Carol’s career, though his egotistic personality keeps him from truly being a caring parent. He’s just written a how-to book and gained a bit of a following, which includes his new, much younger girlfriend, Jamie (Alexandra Holden). When he announces Jamie is moving in, Carol must vacate his home almost immediately. She decides to crash at her sister’s place. Dani (Michaela Watkins) is married to kindhearted Moe (Rob Corddry), and their relationship problems become an important part of Carol’s story.

While working with Louis (Demetri Martin), a sound engineer with a huge crush on Carol, she begins to land some gigs, including stealing one from Gustav Warner (Ken Marino), an industry staple. She hooks up with Gustav at a party one night, both unaware that they are competitors, which complicates things further when Carol, Gustav, and Sam are suddenly in the running to be the voice of a new blockbuster action film series geared towards women. Even her own father has a sexist view on keeping the industry a male dominated business.

Despite its somewhat exaggerated premise, In A World … has a slice-of-life feel to it. It’s a grimy film in a lot of ways; the apartment sets are littered with stuff so nothing looks overly staged. Carol’s life living on her sister’s couch, wearing whatever clothes she could bring from her dad’s, seems completely realistic and the total opposite of Gustav’s more lavish lifestyle. It helps to ground the more broad comedy the film utilizes in its depiction of this small, cutthroat section of Hollywood fame. There are even a few hilariously and strategically placed cameos from well-known actors playing themselves that solidify the simultaneous connection and disconnection between the voice-over stars and the traditionally Hollywood famous.

Bell carries the film extremely well, pulling off the awkward moments Carol faces in her life with sincerity. Her loving relationship with her sister, her struggles with her dad, and her turbulent love life all make her a relatable character who isn’t stuck in a generic romantic comedy or coming-of-age role. Bell takes the quirky, indie comedy and puts a refreshingly feminist spin on it. That, mixed with some truly hilarious moments, makes me excited to see what Bell does next.