Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Comedy For Your Consideration

For Your Consideration

Award season in Hollywood is a time when studios crank up their hype machines in hopes of having their projects rewarded by trophies that often translate into box office receipts or DVD rentals and sales. It would terribly cynical to assume that if an actor or a director won an Academy Award or a Golden Globe that he or she didn’t deserve it, but was part of a successful publicity campaign, yet it’s hard  not to think the worst, when realizing just how involved award-campaigning is — there’s less politics involved in a presidential campaign.

Christopher Guest, an auteur who seems to have a good eye for skewering a cultural movement or trend, takes a different approach to For Your Consideration. Instead of making a mockumentary, he presents a linear, narrative film that still benefits from a loose improvisational style, that is a trademark of his other films. Guest is comparable to Woody Allen in that he has a great stock cast of performers he relies on.

The story revolves around a film crew working on a film unfortunately titled, Home for Purim. An patently awful indie film that inexplicably combines Southern folkiness with Yiddish neuroses. The film is shaping up to be an obvious bore, despite the attempts of the game cast. Heading the film is the aptly named, Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara), an over-the-hill actress who sees Purim as possibly her breakthrough. Her costar is past-his-prime, Victor Allen Miller (Harry Shearer). He also is banking on the film to put him on Hollywood’s A-List. Rounding out the cast is the ingenue, Callie Webb (Parker Posey) and milquetoast Brian Chubb (Christopher Moynihan). Even before this atrocious film is completed, there is noise being made about the cast members being nominated for Academy Awards — Marilyn, Victor and Callie fall into the trap of believing their own press. Buzzing around like flies are agents and producers, including a hideously inept producer, Whitney Taylor Brown (Jennifer Coolidge), who cannot luck upon a good idea. The film is punctuated by an Access HollywoodEntertainment Tonight infotaintment program, hosted by Chuck and Cindy (Fred Willard and Jane Lynch, respectively), who offer glib inane celebrity gossip that helps plump the cast members’ egos.

It’s really quite tragic how far Victor and Marilyn fall into the abyss of Hollywood spin and b.s. Marilyn, especially goes through a physical transformation that I won’t divulge, but is quite frightening to watch. Victor, while not as drastic, also goes along with his publicity ride, and even begins to court a young female audience by appearing on MTV’s TRL, complete with fake tan and bling.

Guest is usually quite biting with his characters, and many took notice of the affection he had for the people in his folk-concert film, Mighty Wind. He goes back to being arch in For Your Consideration, being merciless in his quest to skewer the inflated Hollywood ego. While it’s admirable that he doesn’t add too much sentiment, the film does feel a bit one-note and mean — there is a nastiness in the film, most notably in its treatment of Marilyn.

There is a certain irony with Catherine O’Hara’s performance of Marilyn  — it’s not only a standout in the film, but it also was one of the best performances of 2006. O’Hara, an often brilliant comedienne, seems to understand Marilyn all too well and doesn’t play her for laughs once. The result is that Marilyn is one of the least funny characters in the film, but ends up being the most memorable and interesting. None of the cast members soar as high as O’Hara, though each gets a moment. Shearer is reliably uproarious, constructing a facade of self-confidence that hides a glass-fragile ego. Posey is also very good and like O’Hara is allowed to create a real character, instead of just a punchline. The rest of the cast all have moments, are more plot devices than real people. Coolidge is now the go-to woman for playing voluptuous ditzes, and even though she can play her character in her sleep, she still has a way with a one-liner like no one else in film; Rick Gervis also adds some spark as a particularly slimy film executive. Guest also has some choice moments as the frazzled film director hired to helm Purim.

This isn’t Guest’s greatest film — Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show are snappier. It suffers a bit from the one-joke premise of “Hey let’s all laugh at just how screwed up Hollywood is.” While the film industry does deserve some skewering, Guest tends to beat the point over the audience’s head. If it wasn’t for the cast (especially O’Hara), then the characters would be irritating and unappealing — instead, they come off as sad and pathetic. While this is a smart and clever movie, with some real laughs, I can’t really say it’s an enjoyable or fun movie.

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