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Film / In a World…

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Speak up, and let your voice be heard.
In a World... is a 2013 American comedy film directed, written, and co-produced by Lake Bell. The film co-stars Demetri Martin, Fred Melamed, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Nick Offerman, and Tig Notaro. The film was a financial success, grossing nearly $3 million on a budget of less than $1 million, and received positive reviews from critics.

The film stars Bell as Carol Solomon, a vocal coach intent on doing voice-over work for film trailers. She lives in the shadow of her much more famous father, Sam Sotto, and faces sexism from an industry that favors male voices, but presses on, reluctantly supported by her Workaholic sister Dani and Dani's long-neglected husband Moe. Carol regularly does voiceover work at Sound Mix-A-Lot with its owner, Louis (who's long had a crush on Carol), and co-workers Heners, Cher and Nancy. When an opportunity finally arises to voice a series of movie trailers, Carol goes for it, only to find herself in competition with her father, and the man her father is mentoring, Gustav.

It is not the Trope Namer for In a World…, although the use of the eponymous phrase in a major motion picture trailer is a plot point.

In a World... provides examples of the following tropes:

  • As Herself: Eva Longoria takes lessons from Carol to improve her Cockney accent for a role, and Cameron Diaz appears in the trailer for the film adaptation of The Amazon Games. Jeff Garlin is the host of the Golden Trailer Awards.
  • Beta Couple: Main character Carol's sister Dani and her husband Moe. Dani falling for a charismatic Irishman mirrors Carol's brief fling with Romantic False Lead Gustav, but Dani's infidelity and the resulting fallout are rather quickly smoothed over to make way for the resolution of Carol's arc.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Carol gets the coveted part, but is told that it was due to positive discrimination and not because she gave the best performance.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Both the receptionist at Louis's studio and Carol's sister Dani are seen reading The Amazon Games, setting up the fact that it's an immensely popular book and its movie adaptation (and, hence, its trailer) is Serious Business. Also, the fact that "executives" liked her earlier trailer recordings points toward Huling's speech to Carol at the end.
  • Daddy's Girl: Played with. Carol and her father have a difficult relationship, but they are definitely close.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Dani and the Irishman. She admits that they made out for twenty minutes, then says that she refused to "let him put the tip in." How far they did get is left to viewer interpretation, but considering that she has a vested interest in downplaying what happened....
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Demetri Martin's character is a very straight example. He is painfully shy and awkward almost to the point of Ambiguous Disorder, but is patient and supportive as he waits for Carol to notice him.
  • Dramatic Irony: When Sam tells Gustav, who has been bragging about his sexual exploits, to "give her another one for me," neither character is aware that he's talking about his daughter. Yuck.
  • Easy Evangelism: None of the minor female characters whose "sexy baby" vocal inflection Carol mocks ever take offense, and it's apparently a very successful sales tactic for her vocal training service. It is presumably meant to show that they are not uneducated or dumb but just need to be taught how to speak so that others will take them seriously, but it has the unintended effect of making them look like easily-led sheep.
  • Freudian Excuse: During a tense dinner with his daughters, Sam lets it slip that his own childhood was less than ideal.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Played with. Characters in the film are divided over whether Dani's (Michaela Watkins') making out with another man for twenty minutes and coming very close to sleeping with him (in her words, she refused to "let him put the tip in") counts as cheating or how bad it is if it does. She herself feels very guilty. For some reason, her husband Moe (Robb Corddry) makes a Grand Romantic Gesture to welcome her back into the marriage, although he is by any reasonable standard the wronged party.
  • Idle Rich: According to one of the guests at his party, Gustav started out as this when his parents died young and left him a sizable fortune. However, he "blew it all on that soccer team" and had to fall back on his vocal skills to earn a living. He currently has a very nice house and a live-in maid, so it's unclear if he actually lost all his money and earned it back, or just wants to keep whatever's left of his inheritance topped off.
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: Moe's clumsy attempt to seduce an attractive neighbor is Played for Laughs. It's unclear how far he would've been willing to go if she'd been at all interested.
  • In a World…: In-universe example. Don LaFontaine's famous phrase is part of the trailer for the Amazon Games quadrilogy. Several characters compete for the voice-over job.
  • Informed Flaw: Carol is told that her audition for the part of voice-over in the Amazon Games trailer was not the best of the lot. To the layman's ear, she sounds just as good as either of her two major competitors.
  • Jackie Robinson Story: Minor example. Carol attempts to break into a small niche (movie trailers) within a niche (advertising work) within a niche (voice-over work) within the acting profession.
  • Karma Houdini: Dani cheats on her husband Moe. It's unclear how far she got, but we do know that it involved a roughly twenty-minute makeout session and an attempt to "put the tip in." Her cuckolded husband leaves with as much dignity as he can muster, and she finds herself wracked with guilt for most of the movie. By the end of the movie he takes her back. She must have given him a heartfelt apology, a Grand Romantic Gesture, or made a serious promise to work on their relationship issues so that this sort of philandering will never happen again, right? Wrong. She does exactly nothing but mope, her sister records some of the moping and plays it for Moe, and this is enough for him to not only take her back, but he performs a Grand Romantic Gesture for her.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Not with weapons, obviously, but before the audition for the Amazon Games trailer, we see Carol, Gustav, and Sam warm up in various ways - gargling apple cider vinegar, inhaling steam, vocalizing through scales, etc.
  • Woman Child: Carol, who still lives with her father in her thirties at the start of the film. She is called out on it, and much of her arc has to do with her striking out on her own.
  • May–December Romance: Carol's father and stepmother (who is slightly younger than Carol is).
  • Men Act, Women Are: For a film that's ostensibly about female empowerment, the female characters are remarkably passive in the two main romantic subplots:
    • Carol sleeps with Gustav when he hits on her despite not liking him much and seeming actively put off by the fact that he sees nothing more in her than that she's "pretty," apparently for no better reason than that it's less trouble than actively rejecting him.
    • Then she waits patiently while Demetri Martin's character goes through the awkward, halting motions of courtship rather than take any initiative herself despite the fact that there's an informed mutual attraction.
    • When Moe's attractive neighbor asks to use his shower, he actively attempts to sound out the sexual possibilities, clumsy as his attempts may have been. By contrast, his wife Dani merely smiles and blushes when an attractive Irishman flirts with her and eventually seduces her into cheating on Moe. When this causes a Second-Act Breakup, it is Moe, not Dani, that performs the Grand Romantic Gesture that reconciles them.
  • Minnesota Nice: Jamie, who "speaks with a Midwestern accent unironically" according to Carol.
  • Missing Mom: Carol's father is a widower; we don't hear much about her mom other than that she had various substance abuse problems and apparently OD'd.
  • No Hero to His Valet: Gustav's maid expresses her opinion of him to Heners's Russian girlfriend:
    "He can be a real shit, but he way overpays me, so it's all right."
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Several of the voice actors at Gustav's party engage in this, snarkily undercutting each other in a manner that seems less than entirely friendly.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Real Women Don't Talk Like Sexy Babies. It's Carol's opinion— which she succeeds in converting everyone else to— that the higher, more traditionally feminine tone that is the natural speaking voice of several minor female characters makes them difficult to take seriously.
  • Serious Business: Voice-over work, specifically for movie trailers, which is treated as far more prestigious than other jobs that use the same skill set like advertising for products other than movies, voice coaching, narrating audiobooks, or voice acting for animation.
  • Shed the Family Name: A subversion, as the protagonist goes by her actual last name of "Solomon" to differentiate herself from her dad, who goes by "Sam Sotto," presumably to sound less Jewish.
  • Shirtless Scene: Most of Gustav's scenes have him shirtless, he also shows up sans pants a few times.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Carol's father believes that there is no market for female voice-over artists for movie trailers and suggests that her niche is doing funny accents, which is treated in-story as less prestigious.
  • Stealth Pun: Carol's father's stage name, Sam Sotto, may be a reference to the vocal instruction "sotto voce", meaning "to denote emphasis attained by lowering one's voice rather than raising it".
  • Straw Feminist: In-universe, the Amazon Games books and upcoming films are treated as simplistic, reductionist crap by a "real" feminist, who ironically acts more than a little like this trope herself.
  • Straw Misogynist: Gustav, who sees women primarily as obstacles to be sexually conquered. Carol's father shares many of the same attitudes but is more nuanced and, unlike Gustav, learns An Aesop by the end of the film.
  • Stylistic Suck: We don't get to see very much of the movies that the trailers are being created for, but they all appear to be comically terrible exaggerations of genre works. Clearly Played for Laughs, and possibly as a Take That! to big-budget Hollywood works in general.
  • The Unfair Sex: Zig-Zagged. Moe's clumsy attempt to sleep with an attractive neighbor is Played for Laughs with shades of I'm a Man; I Can't Help It. His wife Dani's adultery is Played for Drama and she herself feels very guilty about it, although some characters dismiss it as not a big deal.
  • Trope Namer: Inverted. The film is named after the trope, not the other way around.
  • Valley Girl: A few minor characters speak with the stereotypical inflection, appear very fashion-conscious, and may well hail from the San Fernando Valley. Carol recruits them for her vocal training service to teach them to sound like "women" and not "sexy babies."
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Carol is a Rare Female Example, a Well Done Daughter Girl. Despite her troubled relationship with her father, she clearly yearns for his approval and respect.
  • Women Are Wiser: All men in the film are either Straw Misogynist assholes (Gustav) or so diffident and non-threatening as to be effectively neutered (Demetri Martin and Rob Corddry's characters). The latter is presented as the "good" alternative, and Sam Soto's transition from the former to the latter is presented as character development. The women aren't presented as perfect— witness Dani's guilt over cheating on her husband or Carol starting the movie as a semi-employed Woman Child still living with Daddy at 32— but they're still presented as more competent than and morally superior to the men.
  • You Go, Girl!: Follows the formula near-perfectly, with the female lead entering a male-dominated field and beating the boys at their own game, but the field in question is a movie trailer voice-over audition instead of a sports competition.