Lake Bell makes a strong filmmaking debut with ‘In a World …’

Lake Bell stars as a voiceover artist in her filmmaking debut, In a World ….

Three and a half stars

In a World ... Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Michaela Watkins. Directed by Lake Bell. Rated R. Opens Friday.

Up to now, Lake Bell has been seen mainly in supporting roles in movies and on TV, but with In a World ..., she proves that she has much more to offer than just playing a fourth-billed part. Bell wrote and directed World, and she stars as Carol Solomon, a vocal coach and aspiring voiceover artist working perpetually in the shadow of her voiceover-legend father (Fred Melamed). The title refers to the famous phrase used in classic movie trailers, the revival of which has sparked fierce competition to be the first to utter it in a preview for a new blockbuster franchise.

Carol finds herself facing off against both a smarmy voiceover star (Ken Marino) and her own father in her effort to break the gender barrier in the voiceover world. Bell effectively mixes comedy and social commentary in her depiction of Carol’s struggles against the entrenched sexism of her industry, and the unique setting allows for a fresh and entertaining exploration of gender imbalances in the workplace.

That’s only one part of the story, however, and Bell makes time for a number of other elements, including a substantial subplot about Carol’s sister and her husband (Michaela Watkins, Rob Corddry) dealing with marital issues. Those detours are all well-acted and often funny, but they take focus away from the movie’s greatest strengths. Still, Bell manages to pull the disparate elements together by the end, crafting a satisfying, funny and sometimes moving story about both family and career expectations, and making it clear that she shouldn’t be fourth-billed for much longer.

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