Monday, September 23, 2013

Review in Five Bullets: In A World...

This weekend we saw a really enjoyable indie comedy about a female voice actor trying to find her place in the competitive, male-dominated world of professional voiceover acting.  Quite the premise, hm?

Five bullets, in no particular order:

1) I like movies that allow you to get inside an obscure community or esoteric field of knowledge - to immerse yourself in some little pocket of humanity that you didn't even know existed.   In this case, it's the voiceover acting industry.  No idea, obviously, if it's true to life or if such a community even exists as distinctively as it's shown in the film.  And I would hope that it doesn't consist entirely of self-absorbed narcissists, as also shown.  But it's fun to consider nonetheless. 

2) Demetri Martin as Louis was the stand-out performance.  I loved him in Flight of the Conchords, but have been very bored by both his stand-up and his short-lived sketch show, which somehow managed to be both bland and off-puttingly bizarre.  However, he's fantastic in this role, which requires high-level comedic skills but also has some depth.  The scenes between him and Lake Bell are charming and hilarious.  He should do more indie comedies.  Lake Bell's character, Carol, has some of the qualities of what's usually called the Manic Pixie Dream Girl - socially incompetent in a way that is improbably attractive, has a tendency to mumble/ramble, etc.  This bugged a little but not as much as usual.  Bell has great timing and her character is much more developed than the typical Zooey Deschanel or Greta Gerwig creation.  

3) This movie is rife with absolutely loathsome characters, as well as more sympathetic ones who make some terrible choices.  One thing that was nice to see was that bad moral choices are portrayed as bad moral choices: characters are accountable for their actions.  One character is unfaithful to her husband - in a lot of movies, this might be shrugged off or at least softened somewhat with "everybody makes mistakes" language or a shifting of blame onto her husband or her circumstances.  Not here - the hurt she causes her husband is not glossed over, and when she apologizes it is with a complete acceptance of responsibility for her choice and its consequences.  Her husband's forgiveness and their effort to begin repairing their marriage are acts of love, but are not presented as an implicit excusing of her actions.

4) Also unusual is the way the romance develops between Louis and Carol.  The series of miscommunications and missed connections that comprises the first two thirds of the film is pretty standard rom-com stuff, but better written and executed than most.  When they finally do connect and admit they "like" each other, they spend an evening out doing fun get-to-know-you activities.  It ends with a kiss at the door but not the normally requisite bed scene solidifying their Status As A Couple.  Not that it's implied that this is off the table for them later, but it was still refreshing to see a romantic relationship take shape around shared interests and clear enjoyment of each other's company instead of just physical attraction.

5) I love, love, loved the scene at the end where Carol has started a workshop for women to "find their voice."  Throughout the movie, she encounters several women with the sort of infantile, pouty vocal inflections a lot of women seem to think make them feminine or attractive or influential with men.  At the end she's shown with a number of them gathered in a recording studio, ready to learn to use their voices in a way that reflects their dignity and allows them to communicate powerfully and effectively.  The right kind of feminist message.

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