In this week's Scene, we review one of the summer's happiest surprises, writer-director-star Lake Bell's comedy In a World ..., which opens Friday at The Belcourt:
One funny person or performance does not a comedy make: whether the focal point is W.C. Fields or Will Ferrell in Anchorman, the trick is to center them within a funny universe. The title of Lake Bell's delightful first feature suggests that she gets it right off the bat: it's rare to see a debut written and directed by its star, especially a comedy, that's secure enough to cede so much of its screen time to the supporting players. Not that she should worry: As befits the dream job of Bell's character — a vocal coach who hopes to shatter the glass control booth keeping women from doing movie-trailer voiceovers — she holds the movie together even when she's not on screen.
The central plot involves the effort to crown a successor to the late voiceover king Don LaFontaine, which will end when the victor purrs those magic words ("In a wuuuurld ...") over a high-profile sci-fi trailer. The movie gets a lot of comic mileage out of the vocal-studio milieu, stocked with low-key riffing from the likes of Tig Notaro, Nick Offerman, Stephanie Allynne and Demetri Martin. More involving, though, are the seriocomic subplots with Bell's bickering sister (Michaela Watkins) and her boyfriend (Rob Corddry), and with her career-challenged father (Fred Melamed from the Coens' A Serious Man), himself a voiceover veteran jealously guarding his turf. These never seem like padding or diversions. If there are multiple people in the frame (as there often are), whether leads or bit players, director Bell will find a way to make us notice all of them.
Read the full review here. In the meantime, check out this clip of Bell discussing her favorite trailers containing the "In a wuuuurld" incantation. (We concur with her assessment that the Planet of the Apes trailer does indeed have apes.) Also, Claire Sisco King, assistant professor of communication studies at Vanderbilt University, will discuss the film after the 9:20 p.m. screening Monday.