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Film Review: For Your Consideration

For Your Consideration (2006; Directed by Christopher Guest)

The films of Christopher Guest have always honed in with absurdist precision on the clueless and wacky denizens of various all-American subcultures, but what has defined those films as unique and gave them their comedic verve was their very specificity. Who could have ever conceived that mockumentaries about white-bred folk music or dog shows could be so painfully funny? Even community theatre, so often lampooned in the subplots of indie comedies, has had no fuller satirical dismemberment than in Waiting for Guffman. Although Guest’s films benefit most from the improvisational leeway given to so many experienced comedic talents, what holds them together is their immersion in the odd and insular subcultures of their creators’ choice.

You know what they say about a family that Purims together...

This, to my mind at least, is the main reason why For Your Consideration is a failure. Sure, Hollywood (and specifically the indie prestige flick industry focused on here) is the biggest, oddest, and most ridiculously insular subculture in America. It is, without a doubt, ripe for satire. And it has been satirized in dozens if not hundreds of films already, not because it’s a rich subject necessarily, but probably because Hollywood is not only insular but self-obsessed. Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy ably attempt to come at the subject from a new angle, but quite simply miss any unique targets.

The Hollywood qualities being satirized are by now so familiar to savvy audiences that they can be ticked off of a list. The pretentious faux-artistry of actors. The blustering thoughtlessness of directors. The clueless producers and the capitalist cynicism of suit-clad studio execs. The eternally-wronged writers. The hapless agents and the smarmy publicists snatching at brass rings of authenticity. The nauseous superficiality of the entertainment press. The obsession with youth and the reliance on plastic surgery to achieve a simulacra of it. It’s all here and it’s all been done before, in one way or another. Which, perhaps, would be fine, if it were done with unique charm or peculiar humour here, but it rarely is.

Not only does the comedy fall short, but Guest and his collaborators provide us with no hooks on which to hang our empathy, as was done in previous films (especially in A Mighty Wind with Levy and Catherine O’Hara’s characters). Although O’Hara gives it her all in a somewhat critically-praised performance, even her character is put through the mockery ringer pretty irrevocably by the end. Every character in this film is to be laughed at, sneered at, and maybe only briefly pitied. None of them, really, are people.

Some of them, of course, are caricatures that manage the occasional laugh. Jennifer Coolidge plays a version of her characters from previous Guest efforts (especially Best in Show), but nails the mix of privilege and dimbulbery once again. Fred Willard, always an out-there highlight in these movies, has even crazier hair than in A Mighty Wind (a faux-hawk, and later on a strange bleached-blond curl poking from the front of a reversed ballcap) and certainly dials up the wacky, although Jane Lynch is given little to do as his entertainment news co-host. The cast of the movie-within-a-movie throw themselves into the cheesy melodramatic emotion of Home for Purim (which is scrubbed of its Jewishness to become Home for Thanksgiving, a move which is basically the history of Hollywood in microcosm) with aplomb, with O’Hara and Parker Posey going particularly broad and amusing.

Small pleasures aside, though, For Your Consideration takes a well-trodden path to its goals, and adds little that’s new or even terribly funny to the journey. Maybe that’s fine for some generic Hollywood comedy, but we’ve come to expect a bit more from Christopher Guest and his gang of collaborators.

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Categories: Film, Reviews
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