In a World…

29 Aug

Spoilers below. I can’t decide if I need to keep saying this every time out. I feel conflicted. But I would hate it if I found a random essay about a movie on Google and then had the movie spoiled. Shrug.

I saw In a World last week. The most “important” or whatever topic raised by the movie is that of women’s voices and how that relates to sex/power/feminism, etc. Since then Miley Cyrus has made all discussions of feminism that don’t involve Miley Cyrus feel old and irrelevant, which is just as well, since I don’t think I’m that qualified to talk seriously about In a World’s serious concerns. Plus I don’t think I have anything particularly new to say about them. There are plenty of places on the internet to read interesting things about this issue. And this is an actually very interesting issue, to me at least. Sexy baby voice, vocal fry, etc. Go read about it!

You might have noticed that I referred to the movie as In a World. Not In a World…, which is the actual title . Hey producers, don’t put an ellipse in your movie title. It’s terrible. I hate it. I’ll be calling it In a World here. Even though I put the ellipse in the post title. That’s just for appearances.

Making a movie about the world of voice-over artists is a great idea. Just the right kind of hyper-specific, small, offbeat little community just begging for someone to skewer. Writing that sentence made me think that a Christopher Guest movie about voice-over artists would be hilarious. I have such great ideas. The whole thing seems to have emanated from Lake Bell, whose name is in the credits at a Spike Lee level. (Writer, director, producer, star.) I recognize Ms. Bell from the couple episodes of Children’s Hospital I’ve seen. That’s an OK show, but watching it mostly makes me wistful for the glory days of Adult Swim. But that’s another topic altogether. Ken Marino and Rob Corddry are also involved here. They’re both steady and reassuring. They’re two of those guys who are always around in movies like this. Not spectacular, not stealing any scenes, but you know they’re pros. Maybe not charismatic enough to carry a movie, but ideal for the kind of supporting roles they have here.

I don’t quite know how to categorize In a World. I liked it. But it didn’t feel especially groundbreaking and I wasn’t making mental notes of stuff that was going on like I do when I’m really engaged in a movie. Apart from the specific issues of women’s voices that I mentioned above, most of the themes were on a kind of general girl power level, which I thought worked, but most of the story didn’t say anything to me that hasn’t been said before.

There was one exception to that. A brief little moment that was perfectly placed, perfectly executed, and left me a little shocked at its inclusion. It was totally unexpected. I’m talking, of course, about the interaction between Ms. Bell’s Carol and the producer played by Geena Davis. I don’t want to mangle her exact quote, but it boiled down to something like, “We both know you weren’t the best person for the job, I picked you because you’re a girl.” That was a devastating takedown, and it totally reframed the way that I thought about “what the movie is trying to say”. I think Ms. Bell has a more nuanced and detailed take on all this stuff than was presented in the movie. And that’s fine. It was a comedy, after all. I thought the Geena Davis moment was a nice subtle jolt to remind the audience that it’s important to think about issues on a deeper level and not accept a feel-good message from a movie as the definitive take on a complex problem. That’s how I took it, at least.

Fred Melamed as Carol’s dad was a 10/10 in the casting department. He nailed it. He has the voice, and his body type and body hair and general physicality brought a dimension that I wouldn’t have expected from an aging voice-over star. This was a character that could have easily swung into over-the-top range, and that would have been too bad. Mr. Melamed brought what I thought was a restrained performance. Credit the writing, too. “Jerk who takes himself too seriously” is a hard character to make believable.

Another thing that worked well was the romance angle with Demetri Martin. That was a well-crafted subplot. For a romantic-comedy kind of story, it was not that eye-rollingly ridiculous. Kudos. You know what? This was just an overall fun movie. Not a home run, but a stand-up double. An enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. I hope that sounds like a compliment.

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