A colleague once remarked that the greatest film Christopher Guest will ever make would be about the world of film critics. Just imagine the evisceration of such folks as Rex Reed and Roger Ebert (the latter’s latest prolonged hospital stay notwithstanding), and as many in Guest’s repertory are of the balding, middle-aged variety, it seems like a genius notion. There’s a few critics, and a whole lot of other space-takers, represented in For Your Consideration. This overcrowded and under-funny assault on Hollywood and the Academy Awards is the latest in Guest’s comedy factory of diminishing returns, and there is very little here you haven’t seen before. In the age of US Weekly and the like, what it parodies just isn’t enough to make us forget the scores of other movies that have mined this field.
For Your Consideration‘s central hook is a damn good one: the Oscar buzz that swirls around a crappy independent drama, an earnest Jewish holiday sobfest called Home for Purim, and how each felicitous leak about its production sends its cast and crew spiraling out of control in self-possessed narcissism. Its cast, including aging siren Marilyn (Catherine O’Hara), ultra-serious Victor (Harry Shearer), best known as playing a hot dog in a long-running commercial, and Kelly (Parker Posey), a harsh stand-up comic, all find themselves caught up in agents, handicappers, and even the evil clutches of an Entertainment Tonight-inspired TV staff (amusingly sent up by Jane Lynch and Fred Willard). But a crucial problem remains: the film they’re working on is so lame even Academy voters wouldn’t go for it, which throws everything off balance, and presents us lots of scenes of the cast tossing off ad libs that seem more apropos to outtakes than any film’s finished product (both in the film and the film-within-the-film). Guest even seems to be ripping off himself this time; his 1989 gem The Big Picture covered a lot of this same material with a higher rate of believability. Here, most of what you get is a bunch of people goofing off for their own benefit, with virtually no one in the cast performing to potential.
That is, except for one. O’Hara, one of comedy’s most unsung treasures, is the rare comic who never plays scenes for cheap laughs, and amazingly bags every one. Just as her sincere, heartfelt underplaying in Guest’s last effort, A Mighty Wind, saved that picture from collapsing into coyness, she shrewdly embodies the touchingly vulnerable Marilyn’s best and worst impulses. Sure, the movie takes great pains to highlight her foolishness (her gruesome extreme makeover in the film would be intolerable if not for O’Hara’s chops), but even in the more egregious moments, you see a real woman lurking within. For all of the throngs of people who needlessly crowd Guest’s every frame, all he really needs is a party of one.