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Mini-Reviews: In A World…, A.C.O.D.

In A World…:

This summer, two indie comedies came out, both written and directed by actors, handling the behind-the-camera work for the first time. One got major distribution, plenty of media coverage, and the cover of Entertainment Weekly; the other got limited distribution and was more or less hidden from the public. One of these films was made by a man about a man and the objectified women around him. The other was made by a woman about a woman who has dimension and warmth living in a world where men have the power and the media attention. Want to take a guess which is which? In A World… was the minor release, the film crafted by the woman (surprise), and by miles the superior of the two (the other, Don Jon, has already been ranted about on this site). Lake Bell, the writer/director/star, has created a lovely film, the rarest of gems in the comedy genre: a character-driven story with social relevance. Lake Bell’s character is the daughter of the greatest living voiceover actor (Fred Melamed), and while she craves to break into his business, he discourages her– the people want to hear a man’s voice, not a woman’s. Bell’s script deftly toes the line between zany and grounded, never taking a misstep. None of the characters in this ensemble piece is a cartoon; all are fully sketched, with intentions, clear backstories, and a purpose for existing. Why can’t more comedies grasp this notion? Furthermore, why can’t comedies like this get the media coverage and the attention they deserve? In A World… is one of the best comedies of the past couple of years, and I have a sneaking suspicion it was treated by the powers-that-be the way Bell’s character is treated by her father. A real shame. This is a real crowd-pleaser, a breath of fresh air, and a comedy for which I couldn’t give a stronger recommendation. Seek it out.

A.C.O.D.:

A.C.O.D. is O.K… and it’s okay with being just o.k. It’s an indie comedy that aims to please, and ultimately, its urgent need to please you is its own downfall. We follow Carter (Adam Scott), whose parents (Catherine O’Hara and Richard Jenkins) were divorced 15 years ago. When he discovers his therapist (Jane Lynch) is actually an author who published a book about how damaged he was by his parents’ split, it sends him reeling. Divorce and damaged childhoods are ripe territory for dark comedy, but as helmed by Stu Zicherman, it’s too neat, too sanitized. Most of the “mess” that Carter finds himself in is essentially sitcom fodder, albeit handled by veteran comic actors who know how to make a line work. At no point does the comedy go off the rails into boredom, but at no point does it soar to blissful heights the way a good comedy should. It is content to be amiable. Scott is certainly an amiable lead if ever there was one, and supporting turns by the likes of O’Hara, Jenkins, Lynch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Ken Howard are all charming enough. This is simply a difficult movie to endorse or condemn, living comfortably in the neutral zone between thumbs up and thumbs down. If you’re expecting a film that tackles divorces and wrings hard-earned laughs from it, look elsewhere. If you’re expecting a film that will earn some mild chuckles and a number of closed-mouth smiles, A.C.O.D. is the one.

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~ by russellhainline on November 3, 2013.

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