If you have a chance before Friday, you should actually attempt to catch a showing of In a World… at the Avon. The film won Best Screenplay at Sundance this year, and tells a sweet coming-of-age (in your 30s) story of a woman desperate to break into the voiceover industry, in which her father is already a huge star. Lake Bell starred in, wrote, and directed the film, whose title stems from the commonly used phrase in movie trailers. Bell’s directorial debut, In a World… has a pretty fantastic balance of cutesy-realistic love story, eccentric but well-written family dynamic, and feel-good female empowerment moments. You could call the film formulaic, but regardless, when you get the elements of the formula down so well, you end up with a great result.
Bell has a familiar face. She has made appearances in many a mediocre romantic comedy during the last few years (the awkward girl in No Strings Attached, the crazy second wife in It’s Complicated, the best friend in What Happens in Vegas), but perhaps most importantly, she was the love interest/female lead in HBO’s short-lived but critically acclaimed How to Make it in America.
In that show, Bell played a Brown graduate in her 20s, living in New York City and of course lost in life. The character, named Rachel Chapman, fluctuated between annoying and charming; this was pre-Girls, so her rich-white-girl problems seemed fresh and irritating-endearing. Chapman runs into an old college friend who spent the last year in Africa handing out condoms (Brown grads, doing great things), then worries she isn’t doing enough to prevent the AIDS epidemic and tries to quit her decent-paying interior design job. And did we mention the character graduated from Brown? It’s clear, however, that Bell is able to reach closer to full potential in In a World… As the New York Times put it, “it may be that to find a leading role worthy of her gifts, Ms. Bell had to make one herself. There is every reason to be glad she did.”
In a World… is also perfect if you are itching for a good rom-com. We all know that the romantic comedy as we once knew is dying, and with studios seemingly unable to restore the genre to its once successful and beloved state, independent filmmakers have been picking up the love story slack. Perhaps it is because courtship itself is ending (has ended?), but as audiences we are no longer attracted to the grand romantic gestures and the unrealistic runs to the airport. Instead, we want awkward conversations in which we can deduce from the characters’ ineptness and ‘realistic’ lack of game how much they like each other; at this type of romance, Bell has excelled. One of the most ‘romantic’ scenes of the film is so cringeworthy that it involves a discussion of the fluctuating degree of awkwardness in the conversation itself. It’s basically “You had me at hello,” but the way our weirdo generation would put it. Oh, and the guy is Demetri Martin.
In a World… finishes its run at the Avon this Friday, and is playing at 4:20 and 8:40 everyday. Go see it.