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"IN A WORLD"... best movie of 2013?
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The Original... Paul
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October 4, 2013 - 5:01 pm
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OK... this may be a long one. Please bear with me here 'cause it's worth it. Bear in mind that after a certain point, I'm going to have to spoil a lot of the ending of the movie to really explain WHY it's worth it. I'll warn you when I get to that point.

 

"In a World" is a movie starring, directed, produced and written by one Lake Bell, a talent who, prior to seeing this movie, I'd never heard of. I went into the movie knowing that it was about a young woman who's trying to break into the world of voiceovers - a job in movies that is usually reserved for gruff-voiced men. This movie is literally and figuratively about giving women a voice in movies. And when a movie like this is made by a young female filmmaker, you might be forgiven for assuming that it would be... self-indulgent.

 

Well, it may be. But it backs up every bit of what it's saying.

 

Lake Bell's character, the protagonist Carol, is a likeable but imperfect figure. At the beginning of the movie I was worried that she'd be too unlikeable. And then her character does two things that are completely selfless but also utterly consistent with her character. And damn if I didn't start rooting for her. Her relationship with her sister is one of the most sympathetic and realistically-portrayed female-on-female relationships I think I've ever seen in a movie. This fact alone kinda depresses me.

 

The relationship of each sister to their father, a voiceover artist himself... it's complex, but none of these characters is ever unsympathetic. The father has a much younger girlfriend, who his daughters initially resent. Again, this relationship is played out against stereotype. The girlfriend is eventually the catalyst of helping to mend the relationship between the two sisters and their father. She never gets credit for this. The movie never really needs her to. The behavior of all of these characters is often played for laughs, but it's never mean-spirited - even when individual characters may be - never sentimental, and never corny. All of the relationships in this movie are like this.

 

Although Bell is excellent, the standout of the movie for me was her sister, played by Michaela Watkins. I've taken a look at her IMDB page, and all I have to say is this: DAMN this actress needs some higher-profile roles, and fast. To say what this character goes through would be spoiling the movie way too much, but put it this way... she goes through a whole gamut of emotions, portrayed with utter conviction by Watkins.

 

So that's the basic stuff over and done with. "Is it good"? Hell yeah it's good. Looking at movies where the characters try and cooperate with each other - as opposed to the more common kind where relationships are often antagonistic, or played at the end of a gun barrel or fist - I'd be hard-pressed to name better.

 

And that's the spoiler-free section over, folks. If you haven't already seen this movie, see it. Now. Trust me on this.

 

Seen it yet? No? Well don't keep reading. You're just going to spoil it for yourselves.

 

Ok from this point on I'm gonna assume that anybody reading has already seen the movie and is ready to talk about some of the gender politics, specifically relating to how the movie ends.

 

One of the things that immediately struck me about this movie after watching it was how fresh and new a lot of it seemed. Superficially it didn't do too much that hadn't been done before. The story is certainly a fairly classical one - protagonist has a goal, protagonist learns life lessons about themselves and relationships while working towards accomplishing that goal. There's even a rom-com subplot snuck in there somewhere. And yet this never felt, to me, like a cheesy romantic comedy. Why is that?

 

Well partly, because it's far, far better than the majority of cheesy romantic comedies that I've seen (which is probably more than I should admit on a badass forum like this). But mostly... because the plot isn't driven by misunderstandings or plot contrivances or male politicking. The various story arcs are, for the most part, driven by the deliberate actions of motivated realistic female characters. And it got me thinking... Why the hell is it so rare to see this happen in mainstream cinema? How come crap like "Never Been Kissed" (yes, I sat through that one in the cinema) get mainstream releases, whereas films like "In a World" don't?

 

Now here's where we get into full-on spoiler mode. For the very last scene of the movie, in fact. See, Carol's goal is to provide a voiceover for a film that's expected to be a monster hit. She achieves that goal - but the film turns out to be a teenage "power fantasy" featuring young girls wearing bikinis and carrying big weapons. Afterwards the producer of the movie talks to Carol about it, and makes it clear that she (the producer) thinks that the movie is intellectually bankrupt crap, but with Carol's voice on the credits, it'll make loads of money. Carol is visibly upset by this.

 

Cut to... Carol's studio, with her talking to several women who want to be taken more seriously. Carol explicitly promises to teach them to sound less like baby-girl flirts (something the women themselves acknowledge is what they imagine men want), and more like WOMEN. Carol's first move is to show the women the trailer of the film, with her voiceover on it, saying "This is what you can accomplish". And then the film ends.

 

So what do I take away from this? Is it the more pessimistic view, that these women still have to control how they sound in order to be taken seriously - something that's basically a cosmetic quality? Is it that Carol, in order to accomplish her goal as a voiceover artist, has to compromise herself in the process, selling her voice in order to promote a movie that (in the female producer's view) has no intellectual or artistic merit? Or is it the more optimistic viewpoint - that Carol, in helping other women to better themselves, is actually proving the producer wrong? That even if the movie is a generic teen power-fantasy, the very fact that Carol's voiceover opens such new opportunities for her is female impowerment in itself?

 

Well honestly, I'd say that none of these ideas wholly covers it. Y'see, Lake Bell, a female filmmaker who's made a movie about literally and metaphorically providing women with a "voice", has used her own voice to make a film that's damn near flawless and that achieves exactly what it wants to achieve. A film that is also hugely entertaining, often emotional, with some great characters and performances. I think that Bell put in the character of the producer just to show a certain voice in Hollywood, but also to undermine her cynicism by showing us that other female voices ARE possible. If the film had been less successful, this could've come across as horrifically self-indulgent. Instead it's damn near a masterpiece, and I loved just about every minute of it.

 

Here's hoping we see a lot more films like this one in the future.

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neal2zod
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November 22, 2014 - 10:00 am
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Just saw it on Netflix/Amazon Instant and liked it alot too. Entertaining, well-paced, and very, very funny, plus it's the rare movie that has "big ideas/themes" that work but don't hit you over the head. This can be enjoyed for what it is (an indie comedy w/ dashes of rom-com and the structure of a sports movie), but it can also stand up to deeper examination that Paul covers above.

It also looks great, has good usage of music, and Bell uses her actors better than they've ever been used before. I've seen Michaela Watkins in alot of garbage but she's a revelation here. So is Rob Corddry, who actually plays a serious-ish character he's never played before. Ken Marino, on the other hand, plays an asshole/buffoon character he's played SEVERAL times before, and he finds a new way to knock it out of the park. If Bell can bring out the best in them, I can't wait to see what she does next.

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The Original... Paul
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November 23, 2014 - 5:49 pm
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neal2zod said
Just saw it on Netflix/Amazon Instant and liked it alot too. Entertaining, well-paced, and very, very funny, plus it's the rare movie that has "big ideas/themes" that work but don't hit you over the head. This can be enjoyed for what it is (an indie comedy w/ dashes of rom-com and the structure of a sports movie), but it can also stand up to deeper examination that Paul covers above.

It also looks great, has good usage of music, and Bell uses her actors better than they've ever been used before. I've seen Michaela Watkins in alot of garbage but she's a revelation here. So is Rob Corddry, who actually plays a serious-ish character he's never played before. Ken Marino, on the other hand, plays an asshole/buffoon character he's played SEVERAL times before, and he finds a new way to knock it out of the park. If Bell can bring out the best in them, I can't wait to see what she does next.

I'm very happy that you liked it also (although I never thought that this would be a "Paul's Village"-type deal. The vast majority of reviews on this one were pretty overwhelmingly positive.) More than that, though, I'm happy that there's evidence that someone other than me has actually SEEN this movie, 'cause I feel as though it seriously deserves a lot more attention than it's got.

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Moon
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October 22, 2016 - 10:44 pm
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I think, that the best movie of 2013 is The Last Days on Mars – if you interested, you can watch it online for example on http://putlocker.rip/ - this movie is about a group of astronaut explorers succumb one by one to a mysterious and terrifying force while collecting specimens on Mars.

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