Lake Bell at 2013 ESPY Awards in July [Rex]
Remember Meryl Streep’s love rival in romcom It’s Complicated? Well, you’re about to get to know the actress who played her very, very well. Lake Bell (What Happens In Vegas, No Strings Attached) has written, directed, produced and also stars in new comedy In A World – a movie that tells the story of Carol Solomon, an aspiring voice-over actress whose big break causes a rupture in her family. It’s ignited Hollywood – and left critics hailing Lake, 34, as ‘the new Tina Fey’.
The film combines zingy one-liners with a thoughtful examination of sexism within the film industry – specifically the male-dominated business of those voice-overs you hear on adverts and trailers. ‘One of the messages of the film is that there are no female voices in movie trailers. There’s a glass ceiling in that world,’ Lake tells Grazia of the movie. ‘Voice-overs instruct the greater public about their lives – everything from what banks to trust to which tampons to buy. And if it’s always a male voice in these positions of authority, we’re going to think that only men can hold positions of power.’
This conflict is played out with eloquent subtlety in the form of the growing competitiveness between Lake’s character Carol and her father Sam (Fred Melamed), a former voice-over legend who has since retired. Rookie Carol, who ends up competing with her father over a coveted job, is bluntly told by Sam
that ‘the business doesn’t accept female voices’.
The film also takes to task oral affectations that Lake worries are becoming a ‘pandemic that’s sweeping the nation’. She rails against ‘up-talking’ – the vocal habit of turning everything into a question – and the way it has infantilised women. ‘If you open your mouth and you sound as if you are a little girl or submissive, it makes you appear as if you couldn’t even be a contender. Immediately you’re doing yourself a massive disservice,’ she says. ‘It’s important to be yourself and not to hide behind a vocal cloak.’
Lake Bell in 'In A World' and posing naked for New York magazine
Digging further into the ideas of women and power in the film is Geena Davis, who appears in a cameo as Katherine, an older woman who has scaled the heights of the voice-over world, but is a prickly presence, not the ‘mentor figure’ Carol hopes for. ‘Some women are awesome but others struggle with fellow female success, because their own journey has been such a rocky road,’ Lake explains. ‘So they feel ownership over it. It’s like, “Well, I got here on my own, I’ll shake your hand when you get up here by yourself.”’
In the context of In A World’s feminist messages, Lake’s recent New York magazine cover shot – where she was naked apart from a torso-covering rose tattoo – was interpreted by some as a contradiction. But Lake, who created the cover in collaboration with her husband, tattoo artist Scott Campbell, does not agree. ‘I struggle with the idea that intellectual expression has to cancel out a feminine or sexual one,’ she says. ‘If a male film-maker was on the cover of GQ looking sexy, I don’t think the same conversation would be happening.’ Lake adds that she is proud of the cover on many levels.
‘As a New Yorker, to be on the cover of New York magazine the same month as my film is opening; to be on the cover of the fashion issue with a body that’s normal – I’m proud of it for those reasons.’ But does she think it’s at all anti-women? ‘It’s not a vanity thing. I look like a total dork in my movie,’ she says. ‘And it’s not antiwomen. I honour the women in my life, in my writing. My mom is my best friend; I love my sisters and my lady friends. I mean, it’s not Hustler. It’s a beautiful photograph.’
‘In A World’ is out now. See Lake's greatest style moments in the gallery below >>