For Your Consideration

I’m a big fan of Christopher Guest‘s work on “This Is Spinal Tap”, “Waiting for Guffman”, “Best in Show” and A Mighty Wind, an unofficial series of mockumentaries generally starring the same great troupe of actors. Needless to say that I was greatly looking forward to Guest’s latest, especially since instead of focusing its satire on something I don’t have a particular affinity for (hair metal, community theatre, dog show, folk music), it’s a movie about something I’m practically obsessed with: movies themselves. Unfortunately, “For Your Consideration”, which is not even a mockumentary, is a pretty big letdown, despite some good chuckles courtesy of perennial Guest MVP Fred Willard and new to the gang Ricky Gervais.

Catherine O’Hara stars as has-been actress Marilyn Hack, a character who’s unfortunately more pathetic than funny. It’s not that O’Hara isn’t good, quite to the contrary: she so convincingly plays a desperate wreck that it makes the film kind of a bummer. I have no problem with laughing at losers, but not when they’re clearly affected by their failings. It’s a fine line, I know, but to see the distinction, you just have to look at O’Hara’s cast mates. Parker Posey‘s Callie Webb is every bit as hopeless and emotionally unstable an actress as Hack, which is never more apparent than when we see her perform her one-woman show “No Penis Intended” (!), but the character’s neuroses are pushed past sorrow and into campy kookiness by Posey. Likewise, Harry Shearer brings the necessary blissful self-delusion to his Victor Allan Miller, a Shakespearean actor better known as hotdog spokesman Irv the Footlong Weiner!

Miller, Webb and Hack are the three leads of Home for Purim, a period melodrama about a Jewish family from Georgia coping with the matriarch’s flailing health and the daughter’s coming out as a lesbian. “For Your Consideration” alternates between glimpses of this absurdly awful movie-within-the-movie and various high-jinx on the set, which is rattled up even more when silly rumours of Oscar buzz emerge. This is a juicy premise, but Guest and company were apparently not willing to really cut into Hollywood bullshit the way that The Player or Bowfinger did. So what we get is a rather toothless spoof that mostly deals in clich├ęs like writers getting no respect, executives being clueless and actors going nuts.

If Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy (who also plays an agent; Guest plays the director) had stuck with their proven mockumentary format, they might have gotten away with the unoriginality of their subject, which would only have been an excuse for the characters to go into long semi-improvised, wonderfully idiotic rants. Alas, by adhering to a more conventional structure, they lose some of their manic energy and anything-goes spirit, and the dullness of some of the material is all the more apparent. Unsurprisingly, the better parts are the too few scenes in which the cast and crew are being interviewed for a making-of featurette and especially for a barely goofier than the real deal Access Hollywood-style TV show hosted by Jane Lynch and comic genius Fred Willard – with a fauxhawk! Speaking of comic genius, Ricky Gervais also manages to be hilarious no matter what in a smaller role, as does Jennifer Coolidge. So “For Your Consideration” does have its moments, but it’s still a stiff, awkward affair to a large degree.