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'In a World…': Lake Bell struggles to be heard in quirky comedy

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Director: Lake Bell; Screenwriter Lake Bell; Starring: Lake Bell, Jeff Garlin, Fred Melamed, Eva Longoria, Ken Marino; Running time: 93 mins; Certificate: 15



The title of this indie comedy is designed to be announced in a booming tenor because it's set "in a world…" where voiceover artists compete to do trailers for the biggest Hollywood movies. Lake Bell is the underdog of the story for obvious reasons (her face may seem familiar from various bit parts), but as writer, director and star, she is a voice that stands out for all the right reasons.

She plays Carol, the daughter of renowned voiceover artist Sam Soto (Fred Melamed), a man who lives "in a world…" where he is the greatest and wears a young blonde on his arm to confirm his masculinity. Meanwhile, Carol is making peanuts on dubious gigs like coaching Eva Longoria to sound like a Cockney moll – a hilarious bit part for the 'Desperate Housewife'.

However, Carol is a bit of a slacker, too, ensconced at dad's house while waiting for her big break and the film shares that casual, carefree vibe. Still, there's a bitter edge to Carol's relationship with dad, not just because she lives in his shadow, but because he likes it that way and when he does chuck her out, it's not because he has her best interests at heart.

'In A World...'
Carol might seem too passive except for her single-minded pursuit of the next big trailer 'Amazon Games', a Hollywood epic set "in a word…" where women have reclaimed the Earth from their male oppressors (watch out for another cheeky cameo). The sexual politics are underlined in a fun, frivolous way and echoed by Geena Davis as a studio exec who tells Carol how it is.

Gustav (Ken Marino) is Carol's main rival for the job, representing all that is macho and naff about the industry and his attempt to seduce her sets up one of the funniest – and creepiest – subplots in the film. But not all the men get short shrift here. Demetri Martin plays neurotic sound recordist Louis who is Carol's obvious match, but fumbles over his words whenever he's around her.

Rob Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine) gives a memorable turn as Carol's potential brother-in-law Moe whose quiet life with her sister (Michaela Watkins) is disrupted when she moves in. Carol's habit of taping voices leads to domestic strife, but apart from the spiky banter between the girls, the feelings of all concerned are sensitively handled, leading to some touching moments.

The energies of the film are widely scattered, but it's all pulled together by Bell at the centre of the chaos, usually with her headset on, in her own world... Her obliviousness – to Louis' crush and the depths of her own father's egotism – is brilliantly played for laughs, but the fact that she doesn't know her own potential makes her easy to root for.

Of course the voiceover theme is a neat allegory for female empowerment, but the delight of this film is that it's determinedly low-key. The playing field is a niche one and the rivalries are petty, but they're shrewdly observed and easily relatable. Bell, who showcases a rib-tickling array of silly accents, is someone we should be seeing and hearing from a lot more.

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