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Sundance 2013: Lake Bell's 'In a World' talks loudly

January 21, 2013|By John Horn
  • The cast of "In a World": Ken Marino, left, Rob Corddry, Tig Notaro, Demetri Martin, Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Michaela Watkins and Alexandra Holden.
The cast of "In a World": Ken Marino, left, Rob Corddry, Tig Notaro,… (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles…)

PARK CITY, Utah--Carol Solomon’s voice-over career isn’t exactly blossoming.

Carol is the central character of Lake Bell's Sundance movie “In a World…,” and at the start of the film, she’s getting by on odd jobs. Carol (Bell) is coaching Eva Longoria on her pronunciation so she sounds less like a “retarded pirate,” and hoping she can score work doing commercials for Sunny Delight.

But work problems aren’t Carol’s only worries. Carol is being kicked out of her house by her father, Sam (Fred Melamed), a voice-over artist in his own right who is threatened by his daughter’s talent.

“If I could break off a piece of this voice and give it to you, I would,” Sam says not at all sincerely. “I’m going to support you by not supporting you.”

Carol’s sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins), is in a troubled marriage to Moe (Rob Corddry), and Carol’s own romantic choices aren’t that smart: She hooks up with another voice-over artist, Gustav (Ken Marino), who would like nothing more than to put Carol out of business.

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Besides starring in the film, Bell wrote and directed it. In a Sundance festival filled with dysfunction, “In a World…” isn’t interested in glum introspection, and the father-child competition is a far cry from “The Great Santini.” This is a romantic comedy, and Bell quickly makes it clear that Carol isn’t a quitter.

Even if Carol is trying to crack a business dominated by men, she’s as capable as any of her male rivals, and at the film’s conclusion she’s thrown into a voice-over battle opposite her father and Gustav for a new series of women-centered fantasy movies. (Bell also directed the film-within-the-film, which stars her friend Cameron Diaz).

Bell, the 33-year-old actress from “What Happens in Vegas” who is making her feature directorial debut with “In a World…,” said the film is loosely based on her own experiences in Hollywood.

“Whenever you write, you always pull from real themes in your life,” she said.

Bell, who does an array of voices in the film, wanted to be a voice-over artist from the time she was a child, collecting scores of tapes of real people that she would try to imitate.

If “In a World” is ultimately a women’s empowerment movie, it’s not just because of what Carol accomplishes professionally.

On a personal level, Bell is infuriated by smart women who take on a ditzy accent—Bell calls it “sexy baby”—that is the latest iteration of Valley Girl dialect. So when Carol encounters women in “In a World…” who speak that way, she doesn’t just wince—she volunteers to help them.

“This was a forum for me to get on a soapbox about it,” Bell said. “There’s a vocal virus that is taking over.”

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