In a World…
“In a World…”
Those three worlds, delivered in Don LaFontaine’s rich baritone, are synonymous with a certain era of movie trailers. If you pay attention to movies you see a lot of trailers, and LaFontaine style voiceovers get hokey fast, though that’s more the fault of the kinds of movies they’re typically attached to. To this day, hearing a voiceover on a trailer feels like a throwback — a distant cousin in from the sticks who’s just now adopting ’90s slang. At least it’s better than those stupid post-title gags that trailer editors love so much these days, but I digress.
Still, most of us usually ignore voiceover where we hear it — trailers, television ads, narration — so it almost feels like a bit of inside baseball to build a movie around it. But writer/director Lake Bell doesn’t just set In a World… in the world of professional voiceover artists, she makes it smart, funny, warm, and engaging even to those who use midwestern accents unironically or sound like squeaky toys.
Someone once pointed out to LaFontaine that there are thousands of people working in voiceover, but about five guys — himself included — get the vast majority of the money. Since he died, the king of the voiceovers has been Sam Soto (Fred Melamed) — né Solomon — with his young upstart friend Gustav Warner (Ken Marino) hot on his heels.
Sam’s daughter Carol (Bell) works as a voice and dialect coach between rare voiceover gigs — there’s not much call for women, especially for trailers — but it doesn’t pay that well, even when Eva Longoria has to reloop all her lines in a movie to sound more like a cockney police officer. Carol’s been living with her dad, but moves in with her sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins), and brother-in-law, Moe (Rob Corddry), when Sam tosses her out so his young girlfriend (Alexandra Holden) can move in.
Still, Carol is dedicated to her craft, carrying a tape recorder to capture the voices around her, and even enlisting Dani to record some for her. As a woman she may not get much respect from most of the profession — her father and Gustav included — but the loop group (Nick Offerman, Tig Notaro) and the engineer (Demitri Martin) at the sound studio all like and support her. And when Gustav doesn’t show up to record a temporary track for a trailer they get Carol to record it instead, which leads to a gig, and then another, and soon she’s in the running for the coveted spot on the trailers for the upcoming Amazon Games quadrilogy, in direct competition with Sam and Gustav.
Bell’s script not only makes the insular voiceover community interesting to a wide audience, it’s packed with enough funny that the laughs from one line would routinely swamp the next. The whole cast is talented, and half of them don’t usually get nearly the recognition they deserve. Bell herself is discombobulated and swiftly, drily witty.
It should come as no surprise that a strong character actress can make a wonderful, screwball leading lady, and if nobody else will give her the chance she just has to make the damn movie herself. Lake Bell is just the all-around talent to pull it off, and I hope we’ll be seeing more of her on both sides of the camera — and microphone — soon.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: pass.