Christopher Guest’s latest laugher forgoes the faux-documentary format of earlier works, settling instead on a straight-ahead narrative style. It’s a small and not-that-significant difference. Because For Your Consideration sits snugly beside Waiting For Guffman, Best In Show and A Mighty Wind, sharing the same improv-happy cast and basic concept: yes, it’s time once again for a group of loveable losers to have their dreams and delusions bittersweetly skewered. What’s more, in targeting the movie biz – the subject of his directorial bow The Big Picture (1989) – isn’t Guest simply (muck)raking over old ground?
Yes. But don’t fret. Familiarity breeds contentment in a comedy that may not break the mould, but still fills it to the brim with a rib-bothering assemblage of asides, observations, in-jokes... plus some of the funniest fashion and personal-grooming errors you’ll see this year. The gang’s love of the dressing-up box is unreined from the get-go, as we step onto the set of Home For Purim, an under-budget, overripe frock opera about a brood of Southern Jews gathering round for their ailing matriarch’s favourite holiday. The lady in question is played by Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara), a three-decade veteran of the Hollywood fringes who hears there’s a rumour on the net that her performance could be Oscar-worthy...
Soon enough, everyone’s believing the hype: performers, producers, pundits. As the buzz gets bigger, so do the giggles – most mirthful is the movie’s midsection, where Marilyn and her similarly tipped co-stars (hotdog-ad has-been Harry Shearer, panned stand-up Parker Posey) start whoring themselves on the talk-show circuit. Hard to say which is the sorriest, silliest, most dignity-stripped spectacle here... nominations include O’Hara’s Halloween-mask Botox job; Shearer flashing new whiter-than-white chompers while trying to be down with the kids on yoof telly; and the grinning idiocy of Hollywood Now co-host Fred Willard, flaunting a blond, Beckham-esque ‘fauxhawk’ that all but steals the show.
Guest plays up his characters’ vanities and insecurities without mercy, but he’s not mean-spirited. His beef is with the hype machine rather than the desperate D-listers who get caught up in its cogs. O’Hara may end up looking like a monster, but there’s an empathy-wringing humanity behind her frozen smile. Trouble is, Guest’s a generous writer/director but a ruthless editor, whittling 50-odd hours of footage down to 86 lean minutes. Not a problem in terms of pace, but in the rush to accommodate everyone – from soulless suit Ricky Gervais to pinhead producer Jennifer Coolidge – he runs the risk of reducing the cast to a parade of bit-parters. As the folks in Purim might put it, the film’s just too dang short.
Still, isn’t it nice to be able to say that? Especially at a time of year when self-important prestige pictures are hawking their bloated wares. Spry and wry, For Your Consideration’s a highly entertaining antidote to all the hoopla. Perhaps it’s too playful to rock the establishment; yet when Shearer cracks, “Oscar is the backbone of this industry, an industry not known for its backbone,” you can definitely see blood on those blinding teeth.
In the running for the 'Best Rethink Of An Established Formula' award, so we'd like to thank the director and his cast for keeping the chortles coming.