Lake Bell was a virtual unknown to me beyond her bodypainted nude New York magazine cover and some scene from the HBO series How To Make It In America where she appeared topless, so I was intrigued by In A World... which was written and directed by her to star in. Savvy actors have a long history of generating their own projects to showcase their talents - Stallone with Rocky; Damon and Affleck with Good Will Hunting; Nia Vardolos with My Big Fat Greek Wedding; lying child molester Lena Dunham with Tiny Furniture and Girls - but Bell's sweet satirical comedy is an eye-opener.
Winner of the Best Screenplay prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Bell plays a vocal coach and voice artist who's trying to break into the Big Boys Club of movie trailer work. She's been living with her father, a legend in the voiceover biz, who doesn't think much of his daughter's ambitions and tosses her out so he can move in his much younger girlfriend. Bell crashes on the couch of her sister, a concierge of a fancy hotel. inadvertently triggering problems in her marriage.
Taken individually, the pieces of In A World... are familiar and perhaps a bit trite, but Bell has wrapped them in some genuinely sharp and unexpected observations which really elevate the material. It would've been easy to just make it the story of a plucky girl fighting the patriarchy, but there are other angles examined, especially at the end. I don't mean to make it seem overly deep, but where it could've taken shortcuts, it actually attacks things head on.
I started watching Childrens Hospital after this and I see that half of that show's cast (which Bell was a lead player) shows up here and they're all good. Bell also takes a very self-deprecating position on her looks (she dresses like a slob and has one guy comment on how "rough" her face is when she's kind of a cross between Mariel Hemingway and Alexandra Daddario) and plays her role as a bit of a goofy mess. Geena Davis and Cameron Diaz have cool cameos as well as Eva Longoria, who's featured in a trailer.
Based on In A World..., I think the world could use some more Lake Bell-made movies in it.
Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable. (Amazon Prime shows it in the proper aspect ratio; Netflix has it cropped down.)