Monday, August 5, 2013

Our new hero(ine): Lake Bell and her singular amazement, IN A WORLD...

The title? Come on: Don't pretend that it doesn't ring a bell. That's right: Movie trailers and those special words that so often seem to begin them: "In a world where..." (you finish it). The first big surprise about IN A WORLD... -- the new movie and the first full-length film from Lake Bell (shown above and below), the actress who also wrote, produced, directed and takes the starring role -- is that something this funny, enjoyable and accessible could be made about the odd little voice-over industry that helps supply the world with movie trailers.

You'd think this would be terribly esoteric stuff (and it probably is), but Ms Bell has found a way to take us rather deep inside it to make us understand the whole thing remarkably well. How? First of all, by hitting us with a terrific opening credits sequence in which she manages to offer up this little industry, along with its history and current events, by the end of which we're ready to roll.

And roll, we do. Ms Bell has concocted a tale involving family, friends and business associates throughout the L.A. and Hollywood areas (everywhere from sound studios to steam rooms) that jumps in and out of genres from rom-coms to movies about movie-making, family films, competition thrillers & infidelity dramas. And she does this so buoyantly, jubilantly that 93 minutes roll by in the blink of an eye.

Bell trusts us to keep up with her, too; for a first-time, full-length filmmaker she's surprisingly adept at pacing her film and using the sort of movie-shorthand that speeds things up. Clues are dropped along the way, and the filmmaker assumes that we'll catch them and figure things out. We do.

Voices, tapes and talking count for a lot in this film -- which is a kind of verbal/audio feast. This also may account for why the film is no great shakes visually (it doesn't need to be, so satisfyingly aural and well-written is it). Bell's visual sense may continue to develop; this is only a first film, after all. And as the movie is so much fun, I suspect only visual purists will complain.

In the terrific cast assembled here (by Ms Bell?  Neither the IMDB nor the press materials lists any casting director), so many performers have the opportunity to stand out. Time prevents me from listing them all, but I must praise Rob Corddry (above with Ms Bell), whose work here as the boyfriend of Bell's sister is as good as anything he's done (which is saying something!), as well as Michaela Watkins, who is lovely and vulnerable as that sister.

Fred Melamed (above, left, with a funny, sexy Ken Marino), plays Bell's uber-narcissist, in-the-same-profesion dad; while Demetri Martin (below), whose wonderful energy and genuine sweetness makes the rom-com portion of the film work beautifully (this is Martin's best work since Taking Woodstock), provides the most important of Bell's romantic interests.

Look for Geena Davis, too, in a surprise role toward the finale that should makes us all realize how much we've missed her over these past few years.

TrustMovies doesn't rate films via stars, but if he did, this one would have amassed 'em all. It's the most fun I've had at the movies so far this year, and it also proves a great learning experience. Ms Bell is now my hero (or heroine, whichever she'd prefer). She's not only shown us that she can make a terrific film, she's proved to us -- and to the industry -- that there is indeed a place for the sound of a woman's voice in trailers and voice-over, while giving us one hell of a good time in the process. This is the feel-good romantic-comedy of the summer.

In a World..., from Roadside Attractions, opens this Fri., August 9, in New York City (exclusively at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema) and in L.A. (at the Arclight Hollywood and The Landmark). It'll certain-ly open soon elsewhere around the country -- everywhere, I hope.

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