Mark Reviews Movies


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Christopher Guest

Cast: Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Jennifer Coolidge, Parker Posey, Bob Balaban, Michael McKean, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Ricky Gervais, Larry Miller

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sexual references and brief language)

Running Time: 1:26

Release Date: 11/17/06 (limited); 11/22/06 (wide)

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Review by Mark Dujsik

With awards season upon us, there's no better time to get an only slightly distorted view of the Hollywood hype system. The title For Your Consideration is an inside joke referring to all those ads one sees in "Variety" and other trade publications, and the text that accompanies the slew of swag that awards groups receive at the end of the year (the tile might save the cost of those three letters being typed in ads). The granddaddy, of course, is the Oscar, and the film's key insight that the movie business almost seems to only exist for the purpose of winning the golden man with the sword covering his junk is a simplified conceit but one that has a bit of truth in it. When trailers lavish in featuring the words "Academy Award Winner" followed by an actor's name and tout a new film from an "Academy Award Winning Director," how can one not be cynical? The film's assessment of the self-serving Hollywood propaganda system is cutting, but its view of the artists who are forced by their own dispositions and the nature of the biz to buy into the hype is one of loving understanding.

Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara) watches Bette Davis in Jezebel. She knows all of Davis' dialogue. Hack (Get it? Ha ha.) is also part of the cast for a new independent film called Home for Purim, which tells the story of the dying matriarch of the Pischers, a Jewish family in a 1940s Georgia who reunite to celebrate the mother's favorite holiday. Accompanying her in the cast are Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer), a veteran theater actor most famous for hot dog ads, Callie Webb (Parker Posey), a former standup comedienne, Brian Chubb (Christopher Moynihan), Callie's boyfriend, and Debbie Gilchrist (Rachael Harris), an insufferably Method actress who plays the lover of the Pischer daughter. When a blog writer suggests that Marilyn could receive an Oscar nomination for her role, the movie's publicist Corey Taft (John Michael Higgins) is suddenly confronted with the possibility of nods for Victor and Callie as well. The movie, a first feature for director Jay Berman (Christopher Guest), is thrown into the spotlight as a potential Academy favorite by "Hollywood Now" hosts Chuck Porter (Fred Willard) and Cindy Martin (Jane Lynch), and the cast and crew start to feel the fervor of the buzz.

Director Christopher Guest rounds out his ensemble with other troupe familiars and some new faces. Michael McKean and Bob Balaban play the screenwriters, who have to sit by and watch as their vision is slowly compromised to accommodate the actors, director, producer, and the studio head. Jennifer Coolidge plays the incredibly dim producer, who—when it's suggested the film change to a "less Jewish" holiday—recommends it should be an Easter story that focuses on the bunny. Eugene Levy is Victor's agent, a man who promises there's nothing more important than his client but when he takes a call in the middle of their conversation tells the person on the other line that he's doing nothing important. Michael Hitchcock and Don Lake are the hosts of a critic show, and in one scene, one of them is reduced to a literal drooling idiot. Ricky Gervais is the president of the studio, who tries to pick up Coolidge's character with the classic line, "Do you like restaurants?" The aforementioned cast is also dead on, particularly Fred Willard and Jane Lynch, who bumble around like they're in the know but can't even get names right, and Parker Posey, who performs a bit of a one-woman show late in the movie. Nobody does awkwardly crazy like Posey.

While Guest's previous satires took the form of faux documentaries, but this one is done as an actual narrative. The dialogue is improvised again, based on a basic outline from Guest and Levy, and there are a lot of great one-liners thrown about here and there. It's broad comedy, but the film's eye for its subject is precise. Some of the gags stall—the scenes of the movie within the movie are so uncomfortably, purposely bad that the joke falls flat early on—but most of this is very funny stuff. The movie ends with little resolution, and while there's an idea that things move on as they were, a few threads are left dangling (like the result of the surprise nomination of one of the movie's team). Catherine O'Hara shines as the actress who tries with very little success to hide her excitement of potential award consideration, and when the system finally gets to her head, she is a sad, Botox-injected shadow of her former self. There's a necessarily uncomfortable but truthful scene late in the film when Willard's character confronts people who have just had their dreams shattered that shows the cruelty of how quickly the machine will turn on its momentary darlings, catching them at their lowest and rubbing it in.

With that in perspective, it's no wonder For Your Consideration manages to hit so many bull's-eyes in its under-ninety-minute running time. The fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is left untouched seems a sensible but unfortunate attempt to play it safe. Nonetheless, there's plenty of lucrative material at hand, and Guest and his troupe are clearly having fun poking fun at the industry that pays their bills while psychologically messing with them.

Copyright © 2006 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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