In a World…
Rating: Carol is a striver who won’t be dismissed because she’s “only a girl”. What’s the next chauvinist’s nightmare, Hillary Rodham Clinton for President?
I have noted in earlier reviews that 2013 has been a breakthrough year for women on the screen. Sure, we saw Amy Adams and Gwyneth Paltrow in traditional roles as beautiful women in peril in both Man of Steel and Iron Man 3, but women have broken through to establish intriguing ground in multiple areas.
The most recent is by Writer/Director Lake Bell in her beguiling movie In a World… . She stars in the movie as Carol, a young woman trying to establish a foothold in the male dominated voice-over world. Put another way, the discrimination against women has not gone away in this country, including the entertainment industry.
In this film, Carol is the daughter of Sam, a recognized legend in the voice-over world. Fred Melamed is sensational in his role as an arrogant, aging icon, and he even finds the need to toss his daughter on the street in order to make room for his new 30-year old girlfriend.
Mr. Melamed’s performance is a reminder of his memorable performance in the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man (2009). Playing a smug character with the name Sy Ableman, he tries to comfort the younger Larry Gopnik ( Michael Stuhlbarg) as he suddenly announces he is stealing his wife. Stunned by the collapse of his marriage as well as the identity of his conniving wife’s new lover, Mr. Gopnik can only repeatedly look at her and say in amazement, “Sy Abelman?” That is a Coen Brothers line for the ages.
Here, Sam’s heir apparent is Gustav, played by an equally arrogant Ken Marino. These men view their occupation as a males only club, and things are turned on its head when Ken’s feeling of triumph on regrettably seducing Carol is followed up by her beating him out of a coveted film announcer’s role.
When Carol is forced to live with her sister Jamie and her husband Moe, played splendidly by Alexandra Holden and Rob Corddry, a subplot develops when Gustav attempts to seduce Ms. Holden. It may sound a bit tacky, but the movie never loses energy as the sisters wrestle with their plight as their lives come partially unglued.
What makes In a World so charming is your gradual attachment to Carol. In a sense, she’s almost like an alter ego to Greta Gerwig’s lovable character in Frances Ha.
Both Carol and Frances are fighting to get ahead professionally in an unwelcoming world as they wrestle with the peaks and valleys of their personal lives. I found both of them to be devoid of any fake pretense, and these are two characters that all viewers, particularly young professional women, are going to find immensely appealing.
While Ms. Bell is asking a meaningful question as to why talented women are not allowed into the lucrative voice-over industry of film and radio, that same question could be asked in many areas. For example, why is our medical profession overwhelmingly dominated by doctors who are men and nurses who are women? Despite the fact that this problem is being addressed here in Indianapolis as I write this, why has the panel of Federal conflict lawyers over the past 20 years been dominated by middle-aged white guys?
The importance of In a World transcends Carol’s ability behind the mike. There is a great scene near the end where she bumps into the woman (Geena Davis) who made the decision to hire her over more well-known competitors. As Carol attempts to thank her patriarch, she was politely told that she was not selected because she was the most talented. To the contrary, her selection reflected the fact that it would be most meaningful to other young women aching to find a way through their own professional glass ceiling.
In the end, Carol’s triumph is every young woman’s hope and aspiration. I can’t help but believe that as the movie ends, many young women in the theater will be heard aggressively saying, “Yes!” under their breath.