For Your Consideration

Christopher Guest has skewered the microcosms of community theater, folk music, and dog shows in his previous films and now he turns his insightful wit toward an industry he knows better than any of his previous projects: the film community. As with all of Guest’s films, nothing is considered safe from his troupe’s biting parody.

For Your Consideration goes behind the scenes to look at the making of Home for Purim, an independent film about a Jewish family that comes together to celebrate Purim and cope with family problems like the dying matriarch or the lesbian sister. The “cast” of Purim is made up of a mix of younger actors and Hollywood veterans, both groups who are trying to find that one role that will put them on the “A” list. The production is suffering from a disinterested director (Guest), an egocentric producer (Jennifer Coolidge), and a press agent who doesn’t know how to publicize such an odd independent film (John Michael Higgins). Something changes on the set, however, when one of those dreadful internet movie sites leaks word that the performance of veteran actress Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara) is “Oscar worthy.” Suddenly the focus is no longer on just creating a film, but winning statues, and the film isn’t even finished shooting yet.

For Your Consideration script credits go to Guest and Eugene Levy, so we’ll give them credit for taking on just about every shortcoming of Hollywood that we’ve complained about regularly. Anyone who has seen Guest’s previous films know they are made up of a lot of improvisation and just about everyone involved has some hand in crafting the final project, though, so the praise really should be spread around more. All of Guest’s regulars are back like Levy, O’Hara, Higgins, Parker Posey, Harry Shearer, and Michael McKean, and a few new faces join the mix, including British and American “Office” alums, John Krasinski and Ricky Gervais. Although Guest has spent years building an incredible ensemble, it seems everyone wants to join in this time, creating a phenomenal cast.

There is the underlying impression that everything in the movie was inspired by something from the rich careers of those involved, giving the film lots of material to work with. Nothing is sacred, from the producer who really only wants the focus on her (not the movie), to the publicist who is barely familiar with the “world-wide-interweb,” to the studio that is very hands-off while the independent picture is obscure but immediately demands changes once the Oscar buzz begins. There is even the aged actress who has worked in the industry her entire life but suddenly appears with obvious work done once the buzz starts surrounding her. All of it is hilarious to see, but you know somewhere these actors have encountered this material as an obstacle or a hindrance. The fact that they get to parody it here must be incredibly therapeutic.

Unfortunately, something is lacking from this picture that is present in Guest’s other films. Unlike Waiting for Guffman or A Mighty Wind, this movie isn’t presented as a straight up “mockumentary.” For instance, there are no camera confessionals helping hold together the documentary vibe of the picture. It’s not quite a straightforward story told through a cinematic style, but it’s not a documentary approach either, blending the two in a way that is a little unclear of what Guest and company set out to create. The result is a little dissatisfying. If this is a documentary, like the ensemble’s previous pictures, I’d like to get more information straight from the characters – what is Hack thinking or feeling about her possible Oscar nomination? If not, the film could have been put together with a lot more polish. This is like one of those “behind the scenes” featurettes on a DVD that is almost strictly raw footage with no real continuing narrative.

For Your Consideration is a great roast of everything that we see being wrong with the Hollywood system these days. There is a lot here to laugh at. Unfortunately the film’s awkward presentation left me wanting more, making this the weakest of Guest’s films despite potentially being the one subject the cast has been closest too. Make no mistake, however, even at his weakest, Guest is clever and witty. I just wish he was a bit more polished here.