Sunday, December 03, 2006

For Your Consideration

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION (Christopher Guest, 2006)

Oscar fever spreads among the cast of HOME FOR PURIM, the film within a film in director Christopher Guest's FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. Internet rumors suggest that Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara) may be delivering a performance worthy of an Academy Award nomination. Like a runaway freight train, Oscar buzz builds around a little film that no one wanted to be involved with in the first place.

Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer) believes that his days of being best known for wearing a wiener costume in a TV ad may finally be behind him. Callie Webb (Parker Posey) dreams of becoming Hollywood's new ingenue, which would rescue her reputation after her failed one woman show. Only Callie's boyfriend, fellow actor Brian Chubb (Christopher Moynihan), is left out of the awards talk.

On a fundamental level FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION misunderstands how Oscar season works. With year-round Academy Awards discussion on websites and daily entertainment programs and in magazines, it's possible that the audience knows more about the meat grinder of nominations and awards than the film demonstrates. How Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy could get it this wrong is perplexing.

The Oscar chatter begins while HOME FOR PURIM is in production and alters the course of the film. The actors change how they work, and the studio executives question elements they now consider to be too ethnic. It's fair to assume that movies designed as awards bait undergo such internal tinkering to maximize their gold statuette haul, but significant talk of Academy Awards and actively run campaigns don't take place before a film has completed shooting.

Factual errors aside, FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION is a funny movie, albeit a minor one alongside Guest's other comedies. The biggest laughs come courtesy of Fred Willard. The scene stealer bulldozes his way through his screen time as Chuck Porter, the co-host of an ACCESS HOLLYOOD clone. With his bleached fauxhawk and disregard for what his co-host or interviewees have to say, Willard's Porter is hilariously smarmy and insincere like his real-life counterparts. The force of Willard's performance sort of blows Jane Lynch off the screen, but she does a funny riff on the statuesque women who also host these shows.

O'Hara, another regular in Guest's mock docs, is quite good as the actress who lets the Oscar rumors overinflate her expectations after a career's worth of lousy and forgettable roles. She milks all she can from Marilyn's ridiculous botox and silicon makeover, although the joke seems a little broad for Guest's usually understated approach.

Some critics have accused Guest's previous films, such as BEST IN SHOW and A MIGHTY WIND, of having contempt for the characters, but it's felt more strongly in FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. There's a detectable bitterness toward the people in the industry, yet the targets, minor veteran performers and starry-eyed up-and-comers, don't seem deserving of the director's anger. A better film would have let the air out of the big stars and directors in positions to nurture projects made primarily to boost their egos.

While FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION is funnier than a large percentage of Hollywood comedies, there are signs that Guest's formula is losing its potency; however, the writer/director can take heart that he won't need to worry about sullying himself in this winter's awards scrum.

Grade: B-

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