It's lunchtime, I'm starving, and I love everything actor Lake Bell has done on film. That's why I'm driving to the swanky Beverly Hills SLS Hotel to talk with Lake Bell at a press junket for In a World, Bell's highly enjoyable film about human relationships set against the fiercely competitive, male-dominated, movie-trailer voiceover world. As writer, director and star, Bell shows just how tough it is for women to work in this interesting showbiz niche, and delivers a lot of laughs along the way.
Lake Bell has been seen in No Strings Attached, It's Complicated, What Happens in Vegas and on Adult Swim's Children's Hospital. She is a woman of stunning beauty and eloquence. I'd be crazy not to want to meet her, and, with In a World, she's made a film I think people should see. But I'm also hungry, and heading to this junket hoping for a delicious lunch spread. You never know with these things. It's hit or miss.
The junket is being held on the sixth floor of the SLS Hotel, spread out in several suites. I check in, spot the complimentary lunch buffet, and all but swan dive into it. There are gourmet chicken wraps, tuna wraps, and finger sandwiches. All delectable. I've heard the healthiest way of eating is to eat until you are 80 percent full. I think of the great Louis C.K.'s line, "I eat until I hate myself." I fill my plate, and scan the suite for a place to sit.
A king-size bed is positioned near a large window. There are no chairs. A beautiful woman sits on the bed with her lunch and iPhone. Looking up at me, she says, "Want to sit down?" Yes, please.
It's a gorgeous afternoon in Beverly Hills and, technically, I'm in bed with a beautiful woman. She texts. I eat. It's kind of like we're married.
Now, I'm walking down a corridor to the suite where I'm scheduled to interview Lake Bell. As I approach, things take a bad turn. Merciless slices of red onion have mixed with tuna and other odorous ingredients in the wraps. My breath suddenly could double as a weapon of mass destruction.
I enter the junket room, enveloped in self-consciousness. Four journalists are sitting at a round table awaiting Bell's arrival. I take a seat, lean far back in my chair, and offer an awkward, tight-lipped smile. Anything to hold back my breath.
Lake Bell enters. She has a great look. With a face chiseled perfectly for the screen -- and the stellar acting chops to back it up -- it's no wonder she's a movie star. What other choice would there be? Lake Bell, corporate tax attorney? I'm not seeing it.
Bell takes a seat, and our eyes meet. I lean back, and shoot her the awkward, tight-lipped smile. I add a slight nod to it, hoping it'll help. It doesn't. Bell looks away. I'm convinced she doesn't like me. I'm convinced nobody likes me. Who do you have to blow around here to get some Listerine?
The four journalists start firing questions. This is very good. They're trying to get good quotes for their outlets. I'm hoping they all keep talking, so I won't have to open my mouth.
"As a writer, you write what you know," Bell says, when asked about her writing process and the relationships of the characters in her film. "That's the only thing you can pull from. So, the relationships in the film are pulled directly from ones that I know and understand. Growing up you're always investigating your parents as real people who were once your age and are fallible. I'm interested in the human condition in general. I think that's why I'm an actor and why I want to tell stories."
Another journalist asks Bell which artform -- acting, writing, or directing -- she likes best?
"I'm inspired by the entire film making machine," Bell answers. "Every single cog and nut and bolt that makes up this living, breathing, functioning thing that is storytelling in this medium. When you are someone who wants to do this for a living and you finally are doing it, being surrounded by creative, like-minded people is really a blessing and the best place you could be. So, I will always continue to do all of those things, hopefully, if I'm lucky enough."
At this point, I'm the only one at the table who hasn't uttered a word. It's starting to get weird. Bell looks at me.
"What do you want an audience to get from watching this film?" I ask, worried my halitosis might scorch those cinematic features right off her face.
"I don't like to be preached to, so I don't want to preach to anyone else," Bell says. "It's a comedy. You don't have to overthink it. Just go in and get some popcorn and relax. But I think there are naturally some messages built into the movie and they are somewhat gently feminist-based. There is the sexy-baby-vocal-virus that is rampant in our country and that is something I want to discuss in the movie, and perhaps make young ladies aware of. It's a pandemic, in my opinion. I don't think we'd be doing this country a disservice by getting rid of it. It's a dialect. It's something that's put on. That's what I find so interesting about it, because there has to be a modicum of self-awareness. You have to know it's not your real voice. It's a characterization. It's like putting on a yucky-smelling perfume."
As Lake Bell makes a strong argument against young women speaking in a submissive tone, I start to imagine living in a world where everyone -- women and men alike -- talks like a baby. I decide it would be a better place. Verbal abuse would go from harmful to hysterical, army drill sergeants would get more laughs than Tina Fey, and getting robbed at gunpoint would become the funniest thing that could ever happen to you. I'd love to live in a world where everyone talks like babies. It's in adult voices that the trouble starts, and red onions in tuna wraps only makes it worse.