In A World... is a rare Sundance treat--a genuine comedy with heart, but most importantly, more laughs than a good 50 festival flicks combined might provide.
The movie is the feature directing debut of Lake Bell, who also wrote the script and stars in the role of an aspiring movie-trailer voice-over artist who also happens to be the daughter of one of the legends of the form, Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed). Bell is Carol, who makes a living as a vocal coach before accidentally stumbling into voice-over work when she records a temporary spot for her recording engineer friend (and maybe more) Louis, played with charming awkwardness by Demetri Martin.
When a studio exec finds Carol's reading of the trailer appealing, Carol suddenly finds herself with a hot career, despite being relegated to her sister's couch when her father gives her the boot so his 26-year-old girlfriend can move in. Carol's sudden success leads to her "stealing" some jobs from her dad's anointed successor Gustav (Ken Marino--excellent as always), and inspires her father to delve back into the business that he sees as strictly a boys' club.
Bell's sharp script skewers Hollywood sexism, ageism and egos running rampant, but is never mean-spirited. Even the characters that come off as unmitigated buffoons are later proved to be more than the audience is expecting. Bell is excellent in her role, and she wisely surrounds herself with comedy all stars like Marino, Martin, Rob Corddry, Nick Offerman and Michaela Watkins. High-powered cameos from the likes of Cameron Diaz and Geena Davis add to the authenticity of the Hollywood world Bell creates, albeit a strange little Hollywood subculture the public is rarely privy to.
In A World... is remarkably adept at juggling its comedy, some family drama and a little romance in a pleasing stew that had the screening I saw--full of jaded media types--laughing throughout. While Bell has honed her directing chops working on adultswim's Children's Hospital, her feature debut proves she's just as skilled at a more subtle brand of comedy.
In the end, you won't just be cheering for Carol to score the big job over the macho men surrounding her. You'll be rooting for Bell to continue producing movies this winning for years to come.
Jan. 23, 3:30 p.m., Eccles Theatre, Park City
Jan. 26, 9 a.m., Egyptian Theatre, Park City