Christopher Guest has never been nominated for an Academy Award. This is not much of a shock — despite his central role in creating some of the funniest films of all time (he co-wrote “This is Spinal Tap” and co-wrote and directed “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind”), his movies have never radiated the aura of poignancy that tugs on the Academy’s heartstrings. Guest’s latest directorial effort, “For Your Consideration,” presents a response to his perpetual Oscar snub: a scathing parody of Hollywood awards mania. The result is absolutely hilarious — and absolutely guaranteed to get nominated for precisely nothing.
Co-written with Guest’s lifelong accomplice in parody, Eugene Levy, “Consideration” details the hysteria that overtakes the cast and crew of the movie-within-the-movie, “Home for Purim,” when rumors of Oscar nominations hit the Internet. Scenes chronicling the creation of “Purim” are riotous: The movie depicts the dysfunction of a Southern Jewish family at a Purim celebration, but the actors fail to portray either Southernness or Jewishness and instead give uncomfortable, overwrought performances. The dialogue is littered with malformed Southern inflections and incongruous Yiddish phrases, and each line is delivered as if it were the emotional climax of the film at large. That the Academy allegedly loves the acting is a not-so-subtle criticism of their propensity for the histrionic and overdone.
But “Consideration” does not busy itself with jabs at the Academy. Instead, it focuses on the actors’ deterioration into obsession and neurosis as a result of their potential nominations. The actors in question are Catherine O’Hara, who plays the aptly named Marily Hack (who plays the mother in “Purim”), Harry Shearer as Victor Allan Miller (the “Purim” patriarch) and Parker Posey as Callie Webb (the film-within-a-film’s lesbian daughter).Each delivers a standout performance: O’Hara as an older woman consumed by a flicker of opportunity both engages and depresses the viewer, Shearer’s abject optimism in the face of his demoralizing commercial work (he plays a hot dog) is crushingly captivating, and Posey as an aspiring starlet (struggling to recoup popular opinion after the devastating failure of her one-woman comedy act, “No Penis Intended”) manages to be alluring in her total dissolution.
Guest’s other regulars are in full force, too. Among the best are Jennifer Coolidge as an air-headed producer, Fred Willard as a jubilant talk host and Eugene Levy as Shearer’s useless, brown-nosing agent. British funny man Ricky Gervais (David Brent from “The Office”) joins the company as well, and the humor vested in his small, relatively unimportant role confirms that his mere presence on-screen is cause enough for laughter. Everyone in the supporting cast has incredible improvisational talent, which is what makes Guest’s movies work: Lay out a basic script, let the cameras roll and the actors will be funny. The technique hasn’t failed yet.
But unlike previous Guest movies, “Consideration” is presented as a standard narrative instead of in mockumentary form. This is a curious decision and a needless deviation from Guest’s established formula, and it makes the film seem slightly less authentic. The fact that “Home for Purim” is unbelievably absurd hampers the authenticity even further. Whereas “Best in Show” seemed to portray a viable dog show and the folk musicians in “A Mighty Wind” were at least halfway decent, “Home for Purim” is too farcical to actually garner any Academy attention. Consequently, “For Your Consideration” sacrifices the opportunity to craft a strong social commentary about the film industry in favor of depicting the production of a ludicrously schlocky film.
Nevertheless, “Consideration” is entertainment of the purest sort. Every scene is infused with Guest’s hallmark quirky characters and uproarious situations. “For Your Consideration” easily ranks as one of the funniest movies of the year — just not Oscar-worthy.
For Your Consideration
Dir: Christopher Guest