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In a World…Where Likable Characters Exist

February 3, 2014

In a World Movie Poster

There is a moment during In a World where Dimitri Martin jumps up and down and makes exaggerated noises in order to get Lake Bell’s attention. At first it seems unnecessarily quirky but it actually becomes endearing. The back story behind the jumping is grounded in truth because he used that technique to help his mother who had ADHD. It is an off-kilter move that works and impresses because it gives insight into a character via actions and not telling dialogue. That scene is In a World in a nutshell. It is nice, off-kilter and can be described with the word “rollicking.”

Lake Bell’s cinematic directorial debut is a well thought out film that juggles many subplots and never drops the ball. The key to the film is the niceness. Everybody is likable and there are reasons for their insecurities and annoyances. For instance, the characters aren’t simply dumb, brave, sexy, gawky, smart, sensitive, oblivious or talented. They can be all of those things and the character dimensions allow the film to grow on you.

The eccentricities can be overlooked because this was Bell’s freshmen outing. For instance, there is a subplot involving adultery between Rob Corddry and Michaela Watkins. The married couple has a comfortable life that is rocked by infidelity. The whole thing happens quick and resolved quicker. The performances are strong as Watkins nails her scenes and Corddry has never been more affable. The two have a laid back sincerity that carries them through the ordeal. It is hard to think of an infidelity subplot that has been more likable.

Lake Bell has had an interesting career path. Her roles have ranged from television star (Surface, Boston Legal), supporting player (It’s Complicated, What Happens in Vegas), lead romantic interest (Over Her Dead Body) and now intelligent goofball (Children’s Hospital). Bell captured my attention in No Strings Attached. It is an odd movie that worked because it is so bonkers. It features Natalie Portman yelling about pumpkins, Kevin Kline drinking sizzurp, Jake Johnson talking about porn and Lake Bell being really really weird. I can’t explain her character. Somehow, she worked her way up to being an assistant director on a popular television show without being cynical, jaded and more cynical (most of the ADs I know). She was odd/funny and I realized there was more to the actress than what we had seen in prior roles.

Bell’s confident work as writer, director and actor on In a World has produced a film that has a message without being pushy (She made a run at voice work early in her career). It is quirky without going full quirk (noses are kissed). There are three-dimensions to the characters (sandwich bar) and you can tell much thought was given into providing everyone with their moments (sandwich bar again). It is obvious she was ready to shoot the film and was fortunate enough to have friends and former costars with her (Rob Corddry, Cameron Diaz, Eva Longoria, Ken Marino, Nick Offerman).

In a World is an engaging film that will be a perfect springboard for Bell. It covers new territory and proves she has a keen eye for character. I’m stoked to see the follow-up and waiting for the day Cameron Diaz leads a pack of Amazonians into battle.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2014 1:30 pm

    Everybody here is likable and definitely worth spending time with, which is mainly thanks to Bell for giving each and everyone their own times to shine in the spotlight. It may not be a perfect movie, but hey, it sure is a splendidly good time that doesn’t ask much from its audience, except to just enjoy the pleasant-feel. Good review Mark.

  2. March 8, 2014 8:25 am

    Great post. This was an impressive debut by Miss Bell and I too look forward to her next movie. I agree that Amazonian picture does look good too.

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