Lake Bell – In a World . . .
Lake Bell has been an actress for a while, mostly on television. With In a World . . ., a story about voice-over artists and the cutthroat business of getting the job of narrating the biggest movie trailers, she bursts into movies in an amazing way. In a World . . . is her debut lead feature film performance; it’s also her debut feature film writing debut; also her debut directorial debut. That’s right, she wrote, directed and starred in this film and it was her debut in all three of those areas. The film is frankly a wonderful comedy, probably the best comedy I saw in 2013 (the two Despicable Me movies are spoilers, so maybe I should say the best live-action comedy). The supporting cast is a who’s who of indie comedy: Ken Marino, Demetri Martin, Nick Offerman, Tig Notaro, Rob Corddry, etc. But the movie belongs to Lake Bell as a neurotic young woman trying to break into the trailer voice-over biz, despite the fact that it’s an overwhelmingly male dominated business (seriously, try to remember the last time you saw a trailer with a female voice-over). Her performance is one of the most finely tuned comic performances I think I’ve seen in years; she plays her character as a neurotic, somewhat spastic nerd. She’s decidedly uncool, decidedly clumsy and decidedly uncomfortable in her world. She’s an incredibly gifted physical comedian, but at the same every laugh flows out of her character, not out of some cheap need to get a laugh. She can get a laugh out of the awkward way she leans up against a wall or hunches over in the back seat of a car. She’s a lean, lanky woman and she makes fantastic use of that. About the only place, she’s at ease in in the studio, doing the job that she loves. Interacting with her father or sister or step-mother (who is, hilariously, younger than she herself is) or co-workers or the guy that’s got a crush on her, she’s nerdy and ill at ease, prone to break into inappropriate laughter or tip over a drink or start stammering at a furious rate. She brings the character wonderfully to life and for all the laughter elicited by her character, the movie never feels condescending and she seems completely real and human. You’re not so much laughing at the character as empathizing with her, recalling your most awkward, nerdy moments and laughing at just how hilariously perfect she’s captured those moments. In a World . . . should be a star making vehicle for Lake Bell; unfortunately, few people saw it and it was completely overlooked by the big year-end awards, even by the Golden Globes in their comedy categories, which was a complete shame. Like I said, best comedy I saw in 2013 and definitely the best comedic performance I’ve probably seen in . . . well, a couple of years anyway. It’s a performance that deserves to stand up next to the great screwball comedy performances of yesteryear. In fifty years, this film will have been rediscovered, just like other films that flopped in their day: Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, etc. And Bell’s wonderful performance will be mentioned in the same sentence as performances from Katharine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell from those same films and films like them. It’s a glorious, hilarious performance and the fact that Bell wrote and directed as well just impresses me more. I guess she’s going to be in some Disney movie with Jon Hamm in 2014 about inspirational baseball players, which doesn’t inspire me with a lot of excitement. But if she gets a paycheck that allows her to make another movie like this one, more power to her. I know that I’m on the edge of my seat, waiting for her next writing, directing or starring job. Lake Bell has firmly established herself as a triple-threat worth watching.
Next time, it’s a performance that, in the way Lake Bell reminded me of Katharine Hepburn’s early screwball performances, put me in mind of Bette Davis.