© 2006 Ray Wong
Christopher Guest and company have made some hilarious mockumentaries in the past: Best in Show, A Mighty Wind. This time, though, they've abandoned the formula and opted for a more straightforward, plotted comedy with For Your Consideration, an insider joke about Hollywood.
On the set of a little indie film called Home for Purim, obscure veteran actress Marilyn Hack (O'Hara) is more obsessed with looking young than her acting. Victor Allan Miller (Shearer) can't find any work except for low budget movies and silly commercials. The director, Jay Berman (Guest), is eccentric and somewhat clueless. The two young actors, Callie Webb (Posey) and Brian Chubb (Moynihan), play siblings on screen but are lovers in real life. The film is a low budget, campy family drama set in the 40s. No one pays attention, not even the producer Whitney (Coolidge) or the studio executives.
Then Marilyn finds out there is a brief write-up on the Internet (some obscure movie websites) about her on-the-set performance as being Oscar-worthy; she latches onto it. Through the help of studio publicist Corey Taft (Higgins), they start to create an Oscar buzz around the film, before it's even finished and released. Soon, Victor and Callie also get mentions and all hopes are high that at least one of them would get nominated. A media blitz ensures, and feeding frenzy begins both on and off the set. Studio executives take notice and try to influence the production. The madness culminates in the Oscar nomination, which seems to have the power to make or break careers for these desperate people.
The large ensemble cast have their moments. Catherine O'Hara (Monster House) is particularly heartbreaking as the washed-up actress who is desperate for fame. Her performance is the most layered of all. Harry Shearer (The Simpsons, Chicken Little) is fine as the veteran actor best-known (and visibly frustrated) as a wiener on TV. His cheery disposition and happy-go-lucky facade fail to mask his quiet underpinning of fame and respect.
Parker Posey (Superman Returns) is fun as the naive and jealous starlet who dreams of stardom, and Christopher Moynihan (A Mighty Wind) plays her nice-guy boyfriend/costar with sincerity. Their scenes together are sweet, cute, poignant and sad at the same time. Eugene Levy (Cheaper by the Dozen 2) plays a jewish agent with stereotypical flair and Christopher Guest (Mrs Henderson Presents) is interesting as the eccentric director.
The supporting actors (and Guest's usual players) do their job in their small roles including Higgins as a cheesy publicist, Willard and Lynch as Entertainment TV hosts, Balaban and McKean as struggling screenwriters, Coolidge as the ditsy producer, Rachael Harris as the actress who plays a stereotypical lesbian, Ed Begley Jr. as a fey (but straight) hairdresser. Notable cameos include Sandra Oh, Paul Dooley, John Krasinski, Don Lake, Michael Hitchcock, and Richard Kind, to name a few.
Writers Guest and Levy (A Mighty Wind) go all out with cliches and stereotypes here. As an actor myself, I find some of the observations sharp and hilarious, but wonder if the humor is lost on the general public. There are subtle and not-so-subtle jabs at Hollywood and the bizarre silliness of the business. They've captured the absurd, detached, and desperate nature of show biz perfectly. Granted, they let their actors improvise and create their own characters based on a skeletal script; much of the praise must go to the actors.
In truth, they play it safe with the story arc, which is rather predictable. And in turn, I think they miss the boat with this one. They seem to be more concerned about making fun of the Hollywood stereotypes (what with the fake boobs, botox, media sharks, shallow people, etc.) than giving us a human story as they did in Best in Show or A Mighty Wind. While the jokes are funny in the beginning, they wear thin toward the middle and fall flat by the end. I think part of the problem is that you don't really care for any of these characters -- they are self-absorbed, self-serving, clueless and desperate. We can laugh at them, but we don't necessarily laugh with them, so the film feels cruel by the end.
As an actor, I see many truths in the film and it pains me to watch these people. Perhaps my perception is jaded because of my own insider perspective. Perhaps the general public would find this story and these characters amusing. To me, they are caricatures of something achingly real, and by the end of the film, I am more depressed than enlightened. I didn't expect that, especially not from a comedy. Perhaps it hits me too hard and too close to home; I left the theater feeling kind of sick. In a way, it's a good thing -- these characters force me examine my own objectives and feelings as an artist and person. On the other hand, it may leave the audiences with an unfair impression of the business and artists as they haven't presented the other side. Is show biz truly evil and the people in it all conniving asses? That, my friends, is for your consideration.
Stars: Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, Christopher Moynihan, Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Balaban, Michael McKean
Director: Christopher Guest
Writers: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
Distributor: Warner Independent
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual references and brief language
Running Time: 86 minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 7
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 6
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 6.6 out of 10