Flix is a weekly series that reviews a movie available on Netflix. This week, I review the 2013 film “In a World…”
In a world where institutionalized sexism is still prevalent, the underrepresentation of women in the film industry continues to be an important issue. It’s sad to think that many moviegoers and filmmakers have grown to ignore this unfortunate reality. But in recent years, the current has begun to change and an increasing number of films have begun to address Hollywood’s gender bias. Among these films is the 2013 comedy “In a WorldÉ,” which satirically examines institutionalized sexism in a sub-industry of film audiences rarely recognize.
The film follows Carol Solomon (played by Lake Bell), a struggling vocal coach who strives to make it big in the male-dominated voiceover industry. Despite her raw talent and the help of her colleague Louis (played by the eccentrically witty Demetri Martin), the ego of her father, voiceover legend Sam Sotto (played by Fred Melamed), continually overshadows her.
The film’s title refers to the famous “In a worldÉ” line commonly associated with real-life voiceover legend Don LaFontaine (his voice is the one you hear when you think of movie trailers). The film uses the famous catchphrase as a motif to satirize the pomposity and pretentiousness of show business.
“In a WorldÉ” is of a breed of ironic comedies, comedies that derive their humor from taking a trivial or superficial subject matter outrageously seriously ( la Christopher Guest or Will Ferrell). The egotism and sense of entitlement Carol’s father and his colleagues exhibit are so palpable they become comedic, and at times even cringeworthy. Their zaniness contrasts well with Carol’s relatable, down-to-earth demeanor. While its tongue-in-cheek depiction of the cutthroat voiceover industry is certainly humorous, the film’s most effective gag is its satirization of the “valley girl” stereotype. Carol begins the film as a struggling vocal coach who specializes in accents. A recurring gag is her disdain for the valley girl accent which she describes as sounding like a “sexy baby.” By the film’s end, the valley girl stereotype becomes more than just a recurring gag: It becomes a social commentary on oppressive gender roles.
The film is essentially the brainchild of Lake Bell, who wrote, directed, co-produced and starred in it. Bell’s script brilliantly combines intelligent comedy and thought-provoking social commentary while maintaining a straightforward presentation. The film’s dialogue is candid and honest, yet too well-structured to be improvised. The relatability the characters project gives the film this realism and spontaneity that is difficult to replicate.Through her characters’ dialogue, Bell touches on relevant themes without taking herself too seriously, and the end result is an unpretentious film that is simultaneously humorous and informative.
While the story is witty and original, the film’s major flaw is its lack of subtlety. Oftentimes, the antagonistic male characters appear too overtly womanizing or misogynistic, as if to overemphasize the institutionalized sexism in the film industry. Sometimes, the film’s lack of subtlety seems to belittle the audience; the film apparently assumes that viewers are totally ignorant of institutionalized sexism and examines the issue at its lowest common denominator. But the film’s oversimplification of the topic may have been inevitable. In an industry in which most professionals are reluctant to even address this deeply ingrained issue, “In a World…” actually takes all that controversiality and turns it into an entire plot premise.
“In a World…” is a thoughtful satire that touches on some of our society’s most pressing issues. Its feminist message is an inspiring one that lends a voice to an underrepresented demographic and an underrepresented industry within pop culture. Although the film never comes off as preachy, it most certainly calls on its audience to acknowledge institutionalized discrimination in all its forms and asks the viewer to imagine a better world.