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January 20th, 2017

In a World… ***1/2

DVD Pick

 

Every time I walk into an establishment with a name like Watkins & Son Watch Repair, I wonder to myself: “Why did Mr. Watkins’s kid choose to work for his father?”

I know that it’s tough to find a good job these days, but joining the family business seems like an unwise decision. There’s too much opportunity for strife and ill will.

If Mr. Watkins Jr. doesn’t become as great a watch repairman as his old man, he’ll never have the opportunity to establish himself on his own. He’ll always be in his father’s shadow.

If Mr. Watkins Jr. overtakes his dad, Watkins Sr. will at best feel old and inferior. At worst, the elder Watkins will be jealous of his son and become hopelessly competitive with him.

If I had chosen to join my father’s accounting firm, I’d almost certainly be a wealthier man today. But at what cost? I’d feel like Milton Abrams Jr, not Max. And I’m sure that I’d have a competitive, strained relationship with my dad instead of a great one.

“In a World…” is a whip-smart independent comedy about a daddy-daughter competition set in the cutthroat world of voice-over acting.

The story begins with the death of real-life voice over legend Don LaFontaine. You heard his distinctive baritone voice in movie trailers for decades.

The most likely candidate to replace LaFontaine is Sam Soto: a cocky, arrogant voice-over veteran.

The dark horse is Sam’s daughter Carol (Lake Bell). Writer/director/star Lake Bell plays a charmingly quirky and lovable underdog. She just got kicked out of her father’s house to make room for his new 30 year-old girlfriend. Carol works a humble job as an accent coach for a little LA studio called Sound Mix A Lot.

The most coveted voice-over job in Hollywood is the trailer for the upcoming action blockbuster “Amazon Games.” Carol is an unknown outsider in a heavily male-dominated business. But fueled by a love for voice-over and a quiet commitment to feminism, Carol puts her hat in the ring.

“In a World…” works as a David vs. Goliath story as Carol picks a fight with her pompous pop.

And it works as a feminist message movie. Lake Bell explores the many ways that society marginalizes women. And how women marginalize themselves. There is a recurring joke/sad observation about how some women actively avoid being taken seriously by choosing to speak with a bubbly girly-girl voice.

But don’t worry: the film never gets too preachy. It’s mostly a feel-good comedy.

The movie is so upbeat and optimistic that it makes me feel like everything would have worked out great if I had joined my father’s accounting practice. But I’m still glad that I didn’t.

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