For Your Consideration

2007-07-08 17:21
What it’s about:

The cast and crew of a small independent film are thrown into disarray when Oscar buzz begins to circulate around three of the actors. Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara), a once great actress now fallen on hard times, is the first to attract the attention of the gossips. Next is Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer), a veteran character actor most famous for dressing as a hotdog in TV adverts. And finally Callie Webb (Parker Posey), an ambitious young starlet, gets the nod. As the rumours mount, the three actors are driven to undignified lengths to secure their statuettes.

What we thought of it:

Christopher Guest has a gift. In an industry obsessed with surface and sentiment, Guest has a way of laying subjects open to the bone that is as hilarious as it is painful. So far he’s lampooned rock stars (This is Spinal Tap), heckled amateur dramatists (Waiting for Guffman), skewered pretentious dog shows (Best in Show) and poked fun at overblown folk singers (A Mighty Wind). But never has he taken aim a riper target than in For Your Consideration.

For a writer with such a keen sense of the ridiculous, Hollywood must be an all you-can-tease buffet. In fact the main problem for Guest and his long-time writing partner Eugene Levy is choosing which of the film industry’s endless idiocies and vanities to make fun of. But, with their normal pinpoint accuracy, they have zeroed in on the most ridiculous time in the Tinseltown calendar – awards season.

Yet what makes the film truly funny isn’t the follies themselves – those are obvious to almost everyone – but the way Guest and his cast present them. They take familiar industry figures – from wide-eyed ingenues to cynical executives – and twist them ever so slightly, turning up the volume a few notches until their inherent absurdity shines through.

And while this applies to the excellent leading cast, it’s really at its funniest and most vivid in the supporting roles. Over the years Guest has cultivated an ensemble of excellent character actors, all of whom clearly love working on his films.

We have Fred Willard as the meathead host of a TV gossip show called “Hollywood Now”, strutting around like Ryan Seacrest gone to seed. We have John Michael Higgins as a pompous PR exec who spouts hilarious tripe like “In every actor there lives a tiger, a pig, an ass, and a nightingale.” And then there’s Eugene Levy as a shifty talent agent and Guest himself as a hack director, busily chomping his way through the on-set catering. There are literally a dozen more of these vignettes – all equally delightful (be sure to look out for Ricky Gervais as the reptilian studio head).

Not that the leads aren’t funny in their own right. Parker Posey and Harry Shearer are superb as minor stars who let the whiff of success go to their heads, but it’s really Catherine O'Hara who steals the show as the aptly named Marilyn Hack. She undergoes a complete character change, including hilariously grotesque plastic surgery, and yet she is also the only character for whom we feel any pity – a rare emotion in a satire.

Still, long-time fans of Guest may be disappointed with For Your Consideration. Unlike most of his other films, it isn’t a true “mockumentary” and many will miss the familiar charm of that device. It also isn’t quite as well written as his previous films, often preferring to be simply mean instead of truly satirical. Even at his sharpest, Guest and Levy are normally still sympathetic, but there’s an undertone of sour grapes here that you just can’t shake. Perhaps this is a topic a little too close to home for them.

That said, there’s still plenty to recommend about the film. Hollywood rarely gets the roasting it deserves, so it’s hard not to enjoy the spectacle, even when it cuts a little deep. And where else can you find comedy this intelligent or insightful? It may be an inside joke, but it sure is a funny one.

- Alistair Fairweather
The svengali of satire, Christopher Guest, takes aim at his juiciest target yet - Hollywood. The results are as painful as they are funny.

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