If you know who Don LaFontaine was then Lake Bell’s movie “In a World…” is definitely for you. If you don’t know who that is no problem because the story is still very engrossing as it takes a look at an industry that is relatively unknown. How often does the average person wonder about the voice they hear during a shaving product commercial or a movie trailer? It turns out the field of voice-over work is not only highly competitive, but quite sexist as well.
LaFontaine of course was the undisputed king of voice-overs, known for his signature “In a World…” phrase heard at the beginning of very dramatic movie trailers. Three very simple words, but he made them his enormously helping the marketing process of multi-million dollar Hollywood production. LaFontaine died in 2008 and Bell’s film follows various fictional characters vying for his crown now that a major studio is daring to bring back his signature line for yet another series of movies based on best-selling Young Adult books.
One of the contenders is Carol Solomon (Bell) a vocal coach who records foreign accents on her spare time and gives elocution to Eva Longaria when she cannot pull off a cockney accent. In addition to wanting to help other women speak properly and be taken seriously, Carol would like to make a career doing serious voice-over work for commercials and even big-budget movies. This does raise an interesting question. Apart from ads for feminine products, how often do you hear a woman’s voice in advertising?
Carol’s father Sam (Fred Melamed) says this is just the way things are done in this business. That is easy for him to say, since Sam is an established voice-over actor about to receive a lifetime achievement award for his work. He claims not to be sexist in front of Carol, but it is another story when he is talking to young up-and-comer Gustav Warner (Ken Marino) as he brags about how in his days all he had to worry about with women was how fast to get them out of their underwear. Sam is grooming Gustav to be his follower now that he is thinking about retiring, but when word spread that his daughter might be up for the “In a World…” job he is taken completely by surprise and throws his hat back in the ring.
Seeing Carol, Sam, and Gustav get prepared for their big audition you realize this is serious work. It is of course not heart surgery, but it takes a heck of a voice to record the text for an ad that will be played around the world for millions of potential customers.
In addition to taking a look at this interesting industry, Bell has populated her movie with quite the cast. In addition to Eva Longaria as herself, other voice-over actors have cameos at a big Hollywood party, and the recording studio where Carol works is populated by comedians such as Demetri Martin, Tig Notaro, and the always-funny Nick Offerman.
A subplot involving Carol’s sister (Michaela Watkins) and her husband (Rob Cordry) could have been left out, but both actors are also a very welcomed addition to a great cast.
For her feature film debut, Lake Bell has written and directed a movie that is funny, smart, and thought provoking.
(“In a World… is now out on DVD, Blu-Ray and V.O.D.)