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For Your Consideration
Director: Christopher Guest
Screenplay: Christopher Guest & Eugene Levy
Stars: Bob Balaban (Philip Koontz), Jennifer Coolidge (Whitney Taylor Brown), Ricky Gervais (Martin Gibb), Christopher Guest (Jay Berman), John Michael Higgins (Corey Taft), Eugene Levy (Morley Orfkin), Jane Lynch (Cindy), Michael McKean (Lane Iverson), Catherine O'Hara (Marilyn Hack), Parker Posey (Callie Webb), Harry Shearer (Victor Allan Miller), Fred Willard (Chuck)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 2006
Country: U.S.
For Your Consideration
For Your Consideration For Your Consideration is the fourth collaboration between Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, who wrote the script together and appear on-screen as part of an extensive, returning repertoire of comedic actors who at this point seem virtually inseparable. Having already parodied theater (Waiting for Guffman, 1996), dog shows (Best in Show, 2000), and folk music (A Mighty Wind, 2003) in mock documentary fashion, Guest and Levy have now set their sites on the ultimate target: Hollywood itself.

Unfortunately, Hollywood has been skewered on-screen so many times by so many filmmakers good and bad that For Your Consideration ends up being hampered by familiarity. Guest's previous films were so good precisely because they gave us quirky ensembles at the margins of normalcy and the everyday. The industry of Hollywood is so twisted and abnormal that finding the quirk is a given--it's everywhere. Thus, when we see washed-up actors doing lame TV infomercials, or a phony agent pretending to be on the phone when someone comes into his office, or a flighty director tossing the movie script to the floor much to the consternation of the artsy theater-bred writers, there is no sense of freshness. It is just Guest mining humor from a well that has already been tapped.

The story concerns a small, on-the-fringes-of-the-industry movie production ridiculously called Home for Purim, a World War II-era rural melodrama about two grown children (one of whom is a lesbian) returning home to visit their dying Jewish mother. The production gets a jolt of energy when a minor Internet rumor suggests that the aging lead actress, Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara), might be in contention for an Oscar (ironically, O'Hara herself is so good that the Academy will be remiss if they overlook her performance). Marilyn has been in the movie business for 32 years, but the guard at the studio gate doesn't even recognize her, so the idea that she might be suddenly Oscar-worthy is a revelation that sets off an increasingly ridiculous chain of behaviors.

Soon, the entire production is awash in Oscar suggestion, fueled heavily by a glitzy and shallow Entertainment Tonight-style TV show hosted by Cindy (Jane Lynch) and Chuck (Fred Willard, who is particularly funny because you're never sure if his perpetually grinning host is an idiot or a sadist). Soon, the film's lead actor, a never-has-been named Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer), is also being touted for an Oscar, as is the supporting actress Callie Webb (Parker Posey), a performance artist who is playing the lesbian daughter.

The sharpest observation in For Your Consideration is how everything changes once the word “Oscar” drips from someone's lips, an unfortunate reality in an industry that takes its own self-applied awards show as some of kind of external validation of its artistry and respectability. Soon, the film-within-the-film has been purged of its ethnicity (it is retitled Home for Thanksgiving), Marilyn has gone from being a sad sack to being Botoxed to within an inch of her life, and Victor is appearing on MTV-style shows and telling his agent (Eugene Levy) that he's above doing commercial and television work.

When For Your Consideration works, it is quite hilarious. As much of the film was improvised during production, it maintains a sense of spontaneity and life, even when some of the Hollywood insider jokes are too tired for even this gifted cast to make fresh. What Christopher Guest does exceptionally well, though, is makes his characters genuine and sympathetic; this style of comedy could easy turn the characters into one-note jokes, but Guest always reminds us that they are human beings with feelings, which is underscored with surprising gravity on the morning that the Oscar nominations are actually announced. Of course, immediately after that the film delves right back into the skewering insider humor again, but Guest's ability to make that transition is testament to his dexterity when it comes to using comedy to both mock and understand.

Overall Rating: (2.5)

Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

All images copyright ©2006 Warner Independent Pictures

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