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‘In a World…’ aims for female equality, but gets trapped by the same clichés it’s trying to avoid

‘In a World…’ aims for female equality, but gets trapped by the same clichés it’s trying to avoid

in a world In A World…
Written and directed by Lake Bell
USA, 2013

In A World… tells the story of Carol Solomon (Lake Bell), a struggling young voice coach who lives in the shadows of her acknowledged “king of voiceovers” father, Sam Soto (Fred Melamed). Sam kicks Carol out of his house so he can live alone with his new girlfriend, the 30-year-old Jamie (Alexandra Holden). Meanwhile, a new film series, The Amazon Games, plans to revive the classic “In a world where…” style of film trailers (made famous by the late Don LaFontaine). Soto bows out to give his heir a shot, but after Carol provides a temp track, the executive producer of the film is intrigued, and suddenly Carol finds herself in a world where daughter is pitted against father.

Unfortunately, the film surveys the idea of being a witty and empowering chant for young women trying to make it in a world dominated by male ethnocentrism, but does so only at a distance. Instead, what dominates the film are the same romantic tropes it’s trying to avoid. The film, on its surface, aims to be a fish-out-of-water story for the modern woman struggling to latch onto careers still dominated by men. Or at least, that’s what the trailer portrays. As the film progresses, what fills the story are overseen divergent subplots that rip the heart and soul of the film’s moral. What could be a digestible anthem for the unspoken female youth culture is a messy smashup of romantic clichés with a small light at the end of its tunnel. Frankly, these subplots are portrayed more vibrant in other romantic comedies.

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in a world

We find Carol primarily in a love triangle with Soto’s protege, Gustav, played by Ken Marino. Unaware of who she is (and whom she is related to), Gustav is competing with Carol to provide voiceover for the “quadrilogy” of trailers that could place either of them in the same hierarchical pantheon of great voice actors as Sam. What could be an interesting battle of the sexes comes across as a subpar version of star-crossed enemies reminiscent of You’ve Got Mail. Comedian Demetri Martin does a fine take as the shy nerd secretively in love with our female protagonist, but again, it doesn’t compare to the similar storyline in, say, Can’t Hardly Wait. While riding on the tails of other romantic comedies, In A World… exposes itself as the unconfident, script-dependent, plot-dependent, cliché-laden pile that it is.

The film falls dead in its tracks, without going anywhere in particular. Although there is a destination at stake, one that relies too heavily on its many subplots, In A World… tries too hard in becoming a meaningful message for its times. While it does catch some speed by the end, in a scene that could have played off with great tension and triumph, again falls back on common cinematic stereotypes. Sure, by the end, what we get is a heartfelt outcry for the underdog in all of us. Unfortunately, five minutes of unique parable does not earn respect for the other eighty-eight mediocre minutes. What could have been a product of a strong female triple threat; with Bell writing, directing, and starring, goes back on its word by unmaking its truly girlish, unsophisticated existence.

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— Christopher Clemente