*** (out of four)
There aren’t many good leading roles out there for actresses. There just aren’t. Last year Rashida Jones co-wrote one for herself and shined in the ultimately disappointing “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” and now Lake Bell (“Children’s Hospital,” “No Strings Attached”) has written and directed her first starring role with “In a World …”
The movie’s just as likable as she is—which is to say, very.
The daughter of voiceover legend Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed), Carol (Bell) has grown up in a man’s world. The industry doesn’t want a female sound, her dad says. He also tells his 31-year-old daughter to get out of his house because his 30-year-old girlfriend (Alexandra Holden) is moving in. “I’m going to support you by not supporting you,” Sam explains. How kind.
While crashing with her bickering sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) and brother-in-law Moe (Rob Corddry), Carol, a freelance vocal coach, nails her chance at doing voiceover for a movie trailer (“Welcome to the Jungle Gym,” a children’s romantic comedy). This might be troubling for rising star Gustav Warner (Ken Marino), but he doesn’t know who Carol is when he hits on her. He just wants to tell her she’s pretty.
“In a World” screams “filmmaker’s first feature,” mostly in a good way. Bell finds little pockets of humanity and humiliation that feel observant, not judgmental. She generates sweetness in the relationship between Carol and Louis (Demetri Martin), her colleague with a crush, which could have felt generic. The film also lacks energy and intensity other than the distance felt between Dani and Moe, an incongruous plotline whose resolution skips the part of people actually trying to work through the challenges of marriage.
But “In a World …” has a sincere, sincerely pleasant rhythm and a welcome commitment to women taking charge of their careers and professional demeanor. It’s a message movie guided by good sense, and a good sense of humor.
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