Writer/director/star Lake Bell has produced a smart, fresh, and funny film that sends up Hollywood, sexism, and the conventions of the romantic comedy and yet somehow has us rooting for the characters to find a happy ending. And she has given juicy roles to a great collection of performers who are too often overlooked — starting with herself.
Bell plays Carol, a voice coach and would-be voiceover announcer, the daughter of Sam (Fred Melamed), a very successful voiceover artist well known for his work narrating movie trailers. The death of Don LaFontaine, the acknowledged leader of this small and very competitive field, has left a perceived opening. According to this film, LaFontaine’s signature opening, “In a world….” is about to be revived for a new “Hunger Games”-like “quadrilogy,” and the job of narrating the trailers is considered the ultimate achievement. Sam has just told Carol she cannot live with him any more because his young girlfriend is moving in. So, Carol has gone to sleep on the couch in the small apartment her sister Dani (Micheala Watkins) shares with her work-at-home husband, Moe (Rob Corddry).
Sam is advising up-and-coming voice artist Gustav (Ken Marino), positioning him to take over the big “In a world…” job. But a temp track recorded by Carol has captured the attention of the studio, and she finds herself in the running for an unprecedented opportunity to be a female voice on a movie trailer. This makes sense as the quadrilogy is about mutant Amazons, but the established tradition is for a deep, rumbling, male “voice of God” narrator.
Bell makes first-timer mistakes in trying to pack too many ideas into the film, but she does a masterful job of keeping it all in balance. She serves the other actors as a director better than she does herself. Carol is sometimes just too much of a clueless, klutz. But when she shows a young professional woman that taking like a teenager with a question inflection at the end of every sentence how important it is to own your voice, it is clear to us that this movie shows how well she owns hers.
Parents should know that this film has very strong language including crude sexual references and some non-explicit sexual situations with some poor choices.
Family discussion: Why don’t trailers use women narrators? What do we learn from Carol’s conversation in the ladies’ room?
If you like this, try: the documentary about voiceover artists, “I Know That Voice”