In this series Team Experience sounds off (individually) on their favorite fringe Oscar contenders. Here's Tim Brayton asking you to consider "In a World..." The Spirit Awards did, nominating it in this very category...
What’s a talented comic actress with no good parts coming her way supposed to do, anyway? If you answered, “write herself a damn starring role, already”, then you’re on the same page as Lake Bell, the immensely likable and talented star of the TV series Childrens Hospital, making her feature debut as writer, producer, and director with In a World… Though for all her hypens, it’s as screenwriter that Bell most impresses with this project, a hugely ambitious affair all around despite how utterly low-key and normal it all feels.
There are three things happening here all at once, and the script pays equal attention to all of them. First, In a World… is a conventionally satisfying romantic comedy, with the added benefit of having interesting people who act like human adults and have interests and personalities far beyond “if I’m not in a relationship THIS EXACT MINUTE, I will die, and also I am a failure as a woman". Second, it’s one of the best peeks inside the movie industry we’ve gotten in a lot of years, attending with focus and what feels like a great deal of authenticity to the world of trailer voice-over artists, paying tribute to their skills and lightly mocking them for the puffed-up egos common to all actors. Thirdly, and most impressively given the things mainstream cinema likes to talk about in 2013, it’s a cutting investigation into how gender is experienced both in culture generally and in traditionally male-dominated industries. Not just because of the expected “arrg, girls can’t narrate trailers!” plotline, but in how it anticipates and subverts the way we expect to see these people behaving, given the film’s generic requirement, and in Bell’s pet-observation about “sexy babies”, and how women are encouraged by the media and society to diminish themselves and their autonomy.
Heavy-duty stuff, treated with a light, wry tone that gets all of its ideas across without ever forgetting that first and above all, this is a comedy, and it needs to be both funny and fun. There’s no doubt that In a World… is both of those things, and insightful and truthful along with; it looks and acts like a lightweight confection, but it has more ideas packed into its tidy frame than the most wordy and self-important prestige pictures would know what to do with.