Monday, August 12, 2013

In a World...

It's no surprise that Lake Bell's script for her directorial debut "In a World..." won a screenwriting award at Sundance. It represents everything wrong with Sundance, where too quirky is never quirky enough and scripts are not written but overwritten to the point of sigh-inducing weariness. Remember Marilu Henner's advice to women in "L.A. Story"? When you've gotten dressed and applied your make-up and you're ready to go out, stand in front of a mirror and turn around. The first accessory that catches your eye, get rid of it. In other words, less is more, a lesson lost on Bell and an entire generation of screenwriters.

The title provides a clue to the film's potentially interesting milieu, the incestuous and competitive world of voice-overs for movie trailers, where veteran Sam Sotto (the always annoying but perfectly so Fred Melamed from "A Serious Man") stands as heir apparent to longtime king Don LaFontaine (who passed away in 2008, making "In a World…" seem past its sell-by date). Sam's daughter, Carol (Ms. Bell), coaches actors on dialects - she carries a Dictaphone around at all times, recording any voice that captures her fancy - but wants to break into Dad's business. And then there's the upstart Sam thinks he's grooming eventually to take his place. 

"In a World…" is a movie with a million ideas, a few of which stick and most of which don't. It careers crazily between high and low comedy and some dramatic father-daughter moments that just weigh it down. There's not a scene that doesn't feel like it's taking place on a movie set, and a severely under-lit one at that; I found myself almost depressed at points. You can see that Bell has talent - she's one to watch, both in front of and behind the camera - but she needs to focus, trim the fat, and decide exactly what movie she wants to make.

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