28 February 2007

For Your Consideration

Directed by Christopher Guest
Written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy

Grade: B-

I was excited after seeing The Royal Tenenbaums; while not a perfect film, I felt Wes Anderson was on the right track and that if he stayed on course his next film had the potential to be truly great. And, uh, then he put out The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, a sort of sideways step backwards. I like The Life Aquatic... (enough as to own the DVD) just like I enjoyed For Your Consideration, but the latter is a pretty serious disappointment after A Mighty Wind, Christopher Guest’s previous film that was his best to date, being not only aisle-rollingly hilarious but genuinely moving in its suspenseful climax.

Guest tries to replicate that pathos in the climax of For Your Consideration, but it just doesn’t work, despite Catherine O’Hara’s devastating performance. Deviating from the form of Guest's previous films (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman), it's not a mockumentary but rather a tradional fourth wall comedy, and the style works against Guest & Co. Set in a hyperbolic Hollywood, it’s a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of a movie called Home for Purim, a histrionic Southern tale of a dying matriarch’s confrontation with her lesbian daughter, spoken in a humorous Yiddish drawl. As a rumor from the internet that the performance of the star, Marilyn Hack (O’Hara), is generating Oscar-buzz begins to gather credibility, the whole set soon becomes infected by Oscar-fever as nearly everyone in the cast starts mustering their own awards-hype. (The title is a reference to the ubiquitous trade magazine advertisements common during the Awards season, intended to drum up support or buzz around a film or an actor.)

For Your Consideration wants to rise above the level of basic comedy by satirizing contemporary Hollywood and its production and publicity systems. It’s a bit of a straw man, though, as the Hollywood it sets up to attack is too disingenuously, for comedic purposes of course, caricatural to be the basis of an effective satire. It's actually at its funniest when the characters aren’t talking about the movie business, just doing plainly funny, non-specific comedy for the sake of simple hilarity. As usual, Fred Willard steals the show and his performance alone makes the movie worth-seeing (or skipping around on DVD), but overall it's too broad and esoteric to be consistently rewarding.

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