My first question for award winning screenwriter, director, fashion plate, and actress, Lake Bell, makes her laugh. Not at the question, but because of the question. ‘Why this movie, why now, and is “In a World” part of a master plan for total world domination?’
We are both instantly at ease–at least I am–poking a digital recorder in her face, and reading from my iPad. I’m such a nerd. And she’s delightful.
I promise not to gush.
“I love, I love that comedy is now “total-world domination,” Bell says, in a dark intonation that mimics the title of the film. “In A World” is a movie about the voice-over business, dominated by a small cadre of characters in Hollywood, all of them male.
Therein lies the crux of the comedy, and of a deeper message that’s not necessarily secondary.
“It is true that the Voice-over Industry is made up of a series of cliques, and there’s a hierarchy instated, because the Voice-over Industry is not that big,” says Bell. “There’re only X-amount of jobs that the Big Kahuna’s [get] …and the people who dominate that industry are protective of their status,” she says.
One of those Kahuna’s in the film is her Dad, played by the mellifluous Fred Melamed, and part of the friction in the film is derived from their tortured father-daughter angst. The character she plays in the movie, Carol, is somewhat autobiographical, but not completely. “I personally went through a phase of grunge-kind of Nirvana-loving, Guns ‘n Roses-worshipping moment, where I donned clothes as such,” Bell says. “But I think really, the way she [Carol] puts herself together, and her sort-of under-achieving neuroses, comes from her relationship with her Dad, and her Dad not supporting or providing the kind of environment for her to succeed.” I think, ‘ooh, that’s a poignant point,’ and then Bell continues to delve into the subject. She’s writing from experience gleaned from myriad relationships.
“When you write, you write what you know, and sometimes not direct–but indirect-amalgamations–of people you have interacted with, or brothers and sisters, or mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, and then just people you are friends with,” she says.
Lake Bell is quite normal, after all.
The film is hilarious, and, having done–and still doing voice-work from time to time–there were other nuances I particularly appreciated. It’s clearly a work of love for Bell, and the cast that was assembled to make the movie. “I’m extremely lucky that people in this movie are also friends of mine, ’cause then I can surround myself by people that I love and care about that I want to play with,” she says. “Movie-making, and certainly comedies, are just fun days at work.”
One of those friends is Eva Longoria, who Bell says is on her speed-dial. “Eva Longoria has a very generous sense of humor; she’s a cool gal, she’s a friend of mine, she did that as a favor. I’m lucky that she came in and felt comfortable enough to be self-deprecating,” says Bell.
Another gem in the film is Gina Davis, whom Bell met for the first time in pre-production. The casting was fated.
“It was actually harmonious, because she heads an institute that is dedicated to the betterment of how women are depicted to young girls in Media,” says Bell. “I didn’t know that when I met her, and then it all, sort of harmoniously, came together.”
The part Davis plays is small, but significant, and has one of Bell’s favorite soliloquies in the film.
“That character is really to represent a breed of women who, in success, find helping other women somewhat challenging, so there’s a complexity to women in success, as, I’m sure, there is to men, but I don’t know that as well because I’m not a man,” Bell says. And then she lets loose with another profundity. “I speak to this really specific kind of complicated wrestling between, ‘Hey, look, I gave you this part because you’re a woman, because I want to make a point, not because you’re the best for the job.’”
The film is a complex one, when absorbed on these levels. Bell’s not so sure that’s necessary for anyone to enjoy it. “I personally like movies where I can relate to the characters and the emotionality and the interactions between them are relatable and just,” she says. These characters are rich, the storyline is sound, and you will have a better appreciation for the dynamic women face daily, not just in the film business, but in all occupations in which the sexes compete.
“In a World” is rated-R for language, so I cannot recommend it for the very young. It’s an eye opener on multiple levels for men and women in the workplace, however–which covers pretty much all of us. The film is playing at the Sundance Cinema in downtown Houston.
You can listen to my complete conversation with Lake Bell below in five easy pieces.