The Theory of Chaos

Sunday, December 10, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW - For Your Consideration

Full review behind the jump

For Your Consideration

: Christopher Guest
: Christopher Guest & Eugene Levy
: Karen Murphy
: Catherine O’Hara, Ed Begley Jr., Eugene Levy, Harry Shearer, Christopher Moynihan, Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Carrie Aizley, Jim Piddock, Jennifer Coolidge, Parker Posey, Rachel Harris, Bob Balaban, Michael McKean, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Ricky Gervais, Larry Miller

The reason I don’t believe it is that I know they hate Hollywood. The company of comic actors who have achieved joint cult fame in Christopher Guest’s improvisation-driven mockumentaries (
Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind), shine in his framework because they are inventive, fearlessly eccentric, and in love with the characters they play. They reject the mainstream movies business’ frantic obsession with youth, beauty, obvious punchlines and giant wheezing plots, and the people they create are dreamers focused on such narrow goals that the extremity of their passion when compared to the importance of what they do becomes ridiculous.

Which is why
For Your Consideration, Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy’s attempt to turn their cracked mirror back on the town that keeps them in the cult ghetto, is so hobbled from the beginning. I cannot look at them and believe they are the movers and shakers of Hollywood – they’re too inherently interesting, articulate and alive, and…well, old. And they cannot summon the same warped affection they have for dog groomers or folk singers and apply it to people they clearly view as morbidly idiotic.

And so we have a movie that is frequently funny, as the cast’s ability to dredge the most peculiar ideas out of the corners of their brains has not failed them. It’s practically worth your time just for the way Jane Lynch
walks as the co-host of an airhead entertainment gossip show. But the whole construction of the piece makes it more difficult to feel good about in the end. In truth the story it has to tell is very sad, about people who eagerly pitch whatever morsel of self-respect they may have had left into a meat grinder on the slimmest hope of finally receiving approbation. Oscar Wilde subtitled The Importance of Being Earnest “a trivial comedy for serious people”. This movie is a trivial tragedy about unserious people.

It does have an authoritative understanding of how movie sets operate. The actors are beyond second-guessing and into thirds and fourths, no one knows what the director (Guest) is getting on about, the writers (Bob Balaban, Michael McKean) are upset and there’s always somebody eating. It’s the movie itself that beggars belief – a turgid melodrama called Home for Purim about a family matriarch succumbing to a fatal illness right around a Jewish holiday, while her daughter returns home after a decade to reveal she’s a lesbian. The style of the picture is circa-1953, all languorous yearnings and anguished arguments with full orchestral accompaniment, and is built on the premise that Hebrew words pronounced in a Southern accent are funny. They are, but are we to buy that this movie is being produced in modern Hollywood? Satire usually bears a stronger resemblance to reality than this.

The matriarch is played by Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara), who has given three decades of her life to the movie business in exchange for a modest house, no family, and people confusing her for someone who was in a prison movie with Sharon Stone. O’Hara deserves real praise for giving a sincere, unguarded performance as someone who presses on through deep insecurity day after day. When a crew member tells her that the anonymous writer of a movie gossip website made it onto the set and has opined for the record that she should be nominated for an Oscar, you can sense the devastating effect it has on her.

Because you wonder why they all do it. At this point she’s never going to make Cameron Diaz money. The actor playing her husband, Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer), is a distinguished stage actor with Shakespeare on his resume, but he’s most famous for playing “Irv the Footlong Weiner” and still musters up the dignity to audition for buffalo wing commercials. Callie Webb (Parker Posey) is on the downside of her ingénue years and obviously hasn’t broken through. Why do they do it?

The thought of an Oscar galvanizes. Whether logical or not it is accepted as the pinnacle – the single, indisputable evidence in the movie business that something you’ve done after all this time actually mattered. The story goes Humphrey Bogart would slam his onto the table to end arguments. What happens on Catherine O’Hara’s face, in more ways than one, as she processes this idea is absolutely heartbreaking.

It’s not an Oscar. It’s not even a nomination. It’s “buzz” – and what is that except a thing that everyone else pretends is real because they don’t want to be the one caught not seeing it? Word of the “buzz” around Marilyn Hack spreads, and soon fantasy nominations are being bestowed on Victor and Callie as well. Watching how each of them reacts to Hollywood finally noticing them is fascinating. And there are some worthy scenes that result, like a lethal skewer job of the local morning chat show, and the way the studio heads (Ricky Gervais, Larry Miller), on realizing that they have a movie people might actually want to see, are explaining how its “Jewishness” might be made a little less “in your face”.

I spent a lot of time laughing in For Your Consideration, yet I don’t think it was actually a very good movie. Characters that bad things happened to asked for all of it. Characters that good things happened to are too peripheral for us to care. Some of the supporting cast’s routines have become too familiar, like Fred Willard’s half-baked tactlessness or Ed Begley Jr’s yawningly “flamboyant” makeup artist. There are simply less gems to be found here than in this crew’s other work – and if they thought this would be their ultimate punishment of the town that has never adequately appreciated their gifts, they’ve failed to get the last laugh.


  • I thought after the success of Best in Show this one would play wide enough to reach my little corner, but so far I've been wrong ... I'll still see this one at least on DVD out of respect for Mr. Guest, but thanks for the warning about what I'll be in for

    By Blogger Reel Fanatic, at 12:11 PM  

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