Entries Comments

Movie Review: For Your Consideration

For Your Consideration
Directed by Christopher Guest
Written by Guest and Eugene Levy
Warner Independent

By now we all know what the Guest movies entail; common people with delusions of grandeur sent up documentary-style, a genre that has been dubbed “mockumentary.” Largely improvisational and made with the immediacy of documentaries, the movies also had a sense of reality that made the humor hit home. What happens when you take away that style, and go after the wrong target?

Because that’s what Guest’s For Your Consideration does. It foresakes the documentary feel and goes for a more conventional storytelling method, instantly taking us out of the “reality” of the situations. There are numerous targets in the film, but the one on which it should have focused may have fallen victim to, believe it or not, ego, which the Guest movies are good at skewering.

In this, a small film called Home for Purim is getting made for the usual reason: a paycheck. Actors Marilyn Hack (ha! Catherine O’Hara), Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer), Callie Webb (Parker Posey), and Brian Chubb (Christopher Moynihan) are all in the ridiculous story of family home for a Jewish holiday. An ailing mother, caring father, a Naval officer, and his lesbian sister all mixed into the conventions of a modern-day melodrama. There’s a small mention on an inconsequential film website that Hack’s performance is Oscar-worthy, and buzz starts building. The buzz is mostly covered by an Entertainment Tonight-style show starring Cindy Martin (Jane Lynch, stealing the entire thing with posture alone) and Chuck Porter (Fred Willard, in his now rather tired naive schlub act), and the performers, the publicist (John Michael Higgins), the agent (Levy), and all concerned get high hopes before the Oscar nominations are announced. There’s a horde of other comic actors, including Ricky Gervais, lending their support. It doesn’t help.

Any good satire is based in truth, and the film often goes so far beyond the realm of what we the public recognize as pretentious melodramas, self-involved actors, their “yes” men, and clueless media types, that the humor is sucked out well before the punchlines. It seems like every time I see a movie satirizing melodrama, much like the film In & Out did a few years ago in its Oscar send-up, the movie clips are all wrong. For Your Consideration commits these same sins to an audience who supposedly knows better, and it’s insulting when a satire telegraphs that the performers know they’re in on the joke. This sort of self-awareness is what kills the truth and more importantly the humor.

To elaborate, none of the films, especially not Home for Purim, would ever be considered for an Oscar nomination, for anything. Hold on a sec, I can already hear the “That’s the point!” from someone who likes this movie who might happen across my review. If that’s the point, then we come back to the truth of the matter. We can debate all the time about movies and performances that are getting consideration for Oscars, but usually the movies or performances in the debate are worthy of consideration, stuffy opinions excluded.

Where the movie should have made its “behind-the-scenes” hay was with the media and those responsible for the buzz, not the actors of Home for Purim. Yes, For Your Consideration goes right after the media, a whole bunch in fact, but not nearly enough and it’s certainly not the focus. The title of the movie suggests we will be seeing the ridiculous Oscar campaigns of the studios, the load of swag given to the Academy members, even the “for your consideration” ads put in magazines for movies that were never made for awards in the first place. And that would have been an interesting one-two punch, one that makes sense. Instead, it’s Waiting for Guffman with film instead of a stage, and silence instead of laughter.

It’s such a disappointment. One who acquits herself is Jane Lynch, though. I probably laughed at her more than any other performer combined. Too bad she wasn’t one of the main characters.

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.