Lake Bell In a World

The actress writes and directs a wonderful debut feature set in the voice-over world

The business of voice-over is so fascinating and ripe for expose, it’s surprising no one has tackled it before — it seems like prime material for a Christopher Guest parody. So it was up to first-time feature writer-director Lake Bell, best known as an actress in lighter fare like “What Happens in Vegas” and “It’s Complicated,” to craft a funny, realistic glimpse into the unsung heroes behind the microphone. Bell plays Carol, the daughter of a famous v.o. artist (a wonderfully pompous Fred Melamed) trying to make her own mark in a tricky business. When producers decide to bring back the phrase “In a world …” to movie trailers, she finds herself competing against not only her father, but also her lover (Ken Marino).

As a writer, Bell knows her way around a punchline and crafts engaging characters the audience roots for. A subplot about Carol’s sister (Michaela Watkins) considering an affair is handled with grace, while Carol’s relationship with an audio engineer (Demetri Martin) is sweet and refreshing. As a director, Bell is smart to cast talented friends — perhaps most notably her “Children’s Hospital” co-star Rob Cordrry as Watkins’ husband. And she draws warm, funny performances from everyone. But no one shines brighter than Bell herself; her turn as Carol is a revelation: relatable, imperfect and always watchable.

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