|Lake Bell, Fred Melamed|
The ranks of women initiating their own projects is also growing, even in an industry as male-dominated as Hollywood's. Though mostly working in the indie and low-budget spheres, there are a number of actresses who write (or more often co-write) their own films, such as Brit Marling, Krysten Ritter, and Katie Aselton, with the occasional breakout success of a Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids) or critical acclaim of a Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks).
But with exceptions like Aselton (The Freebie, Black Rock), Jennifer Westfeldt (Friends with Kids) and former actress Lynn Shelton (Your Sister’s Sister, Touchy Feely), very few have made the transition to the director's chair as confidently as Lake Bell, who wrote, directed, and starred in 2013’s laugh-out-loud funny, In a World…, making its Netflix streaming debut.
|Melamed, Marino, Marino's pecs|
Bell plays Carol Solomon, a rumpled freelance vocal coach who lives with her father, a legendary voiceover actor named Sam Sotto (played by a bearish and hysterically patronizing Fred Melamed). Sam, with his female groupies, license plate that reads ANUNC8, and young trophy girlfriend, has written a successful autobiography and is about to receive a lifetime achievement award. He's a man who knows his talent, even as he's preparing to pass the torch to the next generation of golden-throated thespians—specifically, his pal Gustav Warner (Ken Marino), a former rich kid who's now the highest-paid voice in the business. Carol, meanwhile, struggles to get by, her biggest client a screechy Eva Longoria who can't find her inner Cockney.
Struggling for her father's approval as she fights Hollywood's bias toward male announcers, Carol might easily be viewed as a stand-in for every woman who's ever tried to direct a motion picture (or reach the executive suite). But Bell is too canny to be merely shouting from a soapbox; too funny, too. Carol, klutzy and insecure despite her gifts as a vocal coach, is so particular in her quirks and characterization—she invents rallying phrases like "Sister code," and follows people around with a tape recorder to steal their accents—it's hard to think of her as some grand symbol of female empowerment.
|Demetri Martin and Tig Notaro|
|Bell with Michaela Watkins|
What Bell has accomplished with In a World is not simply a fringe-of-show-business comedy that takes a (slightly cracked) lens to a little-examined corner of Hollywood. It's also that movie rarity: an honest-to-goodness portrait of the rivalry between a father and daughter. And while the film's glue may be its award-winning screenplay, what makes it so fun—and rewatchable—are the wonderfully random moments and loopy charm resulting from Bell's light, assured direction, the hard work of her collaborators, and an earworm-ready mix of perfectly selected '70s, '80s, and '90s pop tunes.
If nothing else—and despite the irony of having posed for Maxim, Esquire, and GQ—Bell gets in her digs at that awful vocal scourge infecting the modern American woman: the sexy baby voice (like, you know?). If viewing this film causes those afflicted females to recognize how ridiculous they sound, then whatever pain and expense the director and her team went to in making In a World will have been worth it.
So, please, show this movie to someone you love. The ears you save may be your own.