Inspired by the voice of Don LaFontaine (a.k.a. "The Voice of God"), In A World... is a unique film for myriad reasons--chief among them being the concept and the fact that Lake Bell wrote, directed and produced it. It's very rare for movies to get overly scrutinizing about the nature of women versus men in the entertainment industry. Bell, intimately acquainted with the various facets of the business, exposes the disparity without ever verging on the precipice of preaching. For Bell has been in enough films and TV shows to know that getting too bathetic with a message never works.
Struggling voiceover artist Carol Solomon (Bell) ekes out a living through voice coaching (including actors like Eva Longoria). Her true dream, however, is to land a gig for a movie trailer voiceover. In the wake of Don LaFontaine's death, Carol's father, Sam Soto (Fred Melamed), is one of the few industry titans left in the business. To honor LaFontaine's memory, a movie franchise known as The Amazon Games (try to bite your tongue) seeks to bring back the famed catch phrase "In a world..." for their trailer. Vowing to bow out gracefully of the competition, Sam rallies for up and comer Gustav Warner (Ken Marino, who I always associate with WB--or CW, if you will--programming like Charmed and Dawson's Creek). In the meantime, Sam has kicked Carol out of the house at the behest of his much younger girlfriend, Jamie (Alexandra Holden).
With no where else to go besides her sister Dani's (Michaela Watkins), Carol feels like she can't get much lower until she gets a call from Louis (Demetri Martin, a more awkward version of Jason Schwartzman), who works at a voiceover studio called Sound Mixalot, informing her that a temp track she put down for a "children's romantic comedy" trailer was very well-received. Feeling herself on an upswing, Carol's optimistic attitude seems also to help land her a Sunny Delight and hair commercial. In spite of this newfound success, Carol's obsession with recording people's voices for their accents and dialects does not subside--especially after hearing an Irish guest at the hotel where Dani works at the concierge desk. She begs Dani to let her record him, but she refuses to oblige. The guest's interest in Dani also makes her nervous considering how dissatisfied she's been in her marriage to Moe (Rob Corddry, in a more versatile role than usual). This love triangle sets the tone for other ones that begin to develop as the film progresses.
At a party thrown by Gustav Warner, Louis brings the daffy (don't you just love that word?) receptionist at Sound Mixalot in an attempt to make Carol jealous. Unfortunately, Carol is too busy avoiding her father and his girlfriend and subsequently getting hit on by Gustav, who is blissfully unaware of her identity (both as Sam's daughter and the voiceover artist who recently ousted him from a job). The two end up having a one-night stand, after which Gustav quickly discover who she really is. The morning after, Carol comes home screaming, "Guess who's a dirty slut?!" about herself, only to find Dani crying alone on the floor. After Dani did as Carol asked and recorded the Irish hotel guest, Moe overheard the flirtatious tape and fled from their home. Although this drama serves to make the film engaging, it seems somewhat out of place in the context of the story.
As In A World... reaches its denouement--meaning the unveiling of The Amazon Games trailer--we are left feeling satisfied if not somewhat disoriented by the fact that Carol doesn't really have to work all that hard for what she's getting. Yes, she has talent, but it is somewhat far-fetched that, out of nowhere, the second she makes a slight effort, she is the darling of the voiceover world. Then again, Hollywood can have you on an upswing or a downswing all in the utterance of one influential person's say-so. And perhaps this is one of the underlying themes of In A World..., apart from most audiences being beatifically oblivious to hearing solely male voices during every trailer or commercial.