Synopsis: Director Christopher Guest reunites his star-packed team from A Mighty Wind, Best In Show and Waiting For Guffman for this hilarious, keen-edged comedy set in a town where “Oscar is the backbone of an industry not known for having a backbone.”
In For Your Consideration, buzz of a potential Oscar nomination sends the cast and crew of the low-budget indie film Home For Purim into a wide-eyed frenzy. Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer and Parker Posey play Purim’s lead actors who ride the wave of buzz with odd and oddly touching results. Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Bob Balaban and Fred Willard round out the cast of Hollywood types more than happy to exploit, bask in and leverage the Oscar hype.
eyelights: the delightful cast. the dialogues. the send-up.
eyesores: the clichés. the familiar formula.
“I love that you did all this work, and it’ll serve you well – but not on this movie.”
It’s Academy Awards season. There’s much speculation about who will take the top prizes. There has been for weeks, ever since the growing buzz surrounding the nominations. Who will be nominated? Who will win? Who cares, really? In what way do the awards truly represent the cream of the crop?
As with many other award ceremonies, most of the results are dictated by politics. And marketing. The studios put out massive campaigns to see their films make the top of the pile: exposure means interest, interest means a larger audience, and the greater the audience the greater the buzz.
The Weinstein brothers (who used to head Miramax and now The Weinstein Company) are notorious for pushing their films, and have been very successful at putting them in the spotlight. Marketing campaigns can be so powerful that they can garner awards for otherwise average films (ex: ‘Braveheart’).
So how does this buzz start? And how does it build its fervour all the way to awards night?
‘For Your Consideration’ is a delirious spoof of the kind of mundane award-nomination fodder that the industry rumour mill thrives on. It’s centered on the cast of the fledgling period piece drama ‘Home for Purim’, a paint-by-numbers low budget holiday movie (ironically of the non-Christian kind).
In this motion picture by Christopher Guest (of ‘Waiting for Guffman’, ‘Best in Show’ and ‘A Mighty Wind‘ fame), the excitement starts with some enthusiastic musings on some random blog and then snowballs into all sorts of heightened expectations – an effect that carries multiple cast members along for the ride.
What makes it work is Guest’s keen eye for detail, using all the prototypical industry characters to create a mockery of Hollywood self-absorption. With the help of his regular stable of actors, he was able to fashion what may be the ultimate send-up of Tinseltown’s predilection for auto-backpatting.
The cast is wonderful:
- Catherine O’Hara plays Marilyn Hack, the aging star who finally sees a chance to break out and is so self-involved that she obsessively pursues the dream of an Academy Award – and then morphs into the plastic surgery horror we all too frequently see on our screens.
- Ed Begley, Jr. plays Sandy Lane, Hack’s make-up artist and new age guru. He’s extremely flaky, appears gay, but claims to have a wife. He isn’t flaming but affects some of the clichéd characteristics with his hands and voice. Also, Lane is a bit gossipy and bitchy.
- Harry Shearer plays Victor Allan Miller, an actor who has been relegated to making very popular wiener commercials but would love to finally be treated as a serious thespian. He relishes the spotlight that hits him when he gets dragged into the frenzied nomination speculation.
- Eugene Levy plays Morley Orfkin, Miller’s loser agent who simply isn’t able to do anything worthwhile for his clients. Not only does he have his priorities in the wrong place, he takes all the credit even though he does nothing of any value while making claims to expertise that he clearly doesn’t have.
- Parker Posey plays Callie Webb, the ingénue whose sudden rise to stardom breaks up her blooming relationship with her colleague. I’m not a huge fan of hers, because I think she can be over-the-top and shrill, but Posey is quite good here, toning it down and grounding Webb.
- Christopher Moynihan plays Brian Chubb, Webb’s co-star and her boyfriend. Obviously, they have met on the set, fell in love and are keen on discussing their future together with the press. That is, until the nomination buzz grows around her and he is left in the shadows. Of course.
- Bob Balaban and Michael McKean play Philip Koontz and Lane Iverson, the picture’s writers. Both very proud to see their story being produced, especially since it’s a personal story for one of them, they are initially offended that their script is being tinkered with – even more so when it is suggested that they tone down the Jewishness to make the movie more broadly accessible. They eventually sell out. Balaban and McKean are pitch-perfect here.
- Christopher Guest plays Jay Berman, the film’s director. He’s smarmy and feels fake, self-absorbed. The part is smaller than Guest’s usual roles, especially in ‘Best in Show’, but it’s appropriate and quite excellent . It was my favourite performance of the lot; he totally nailed it.
- Jim Piddock plays Simon Whitset, the film’s lighting coordinator. He’s not that funny, aside from his frustration with the director’s choices, but he’s excellent. And he has a pivotal role, in that he’s the one who gets the ball going, by casually mentioning the internet rumour.
- John Michael Higgins plays Corey Taft, the film’s publicity guy. He’s so out of touch he barely even knows what the internet is. He’s incompetent and tacky, with his big mustache and claims of being “1/8th Indian”. Higgins is very funny, but the clearly-false hair and moustache were a distraction.
- Jennifer Coolidge plays Whitney Taylor Brown, the film’s producer – and yet another airhead. Is it just because she’s very good at playing numbskulls, and relishes playing those parts, or is she typecast? Either way, she’s incredible at being clueless, a blinking idiot – as always.
- Don Lake plays movie critic Ben Lilly, who seems to enjoy each movie no matter how banal it is. This was brilliant casting because he used to play the part of Gene Siskel in the ‘At the Movies’ spoof on ‘Bizarre’. Evidently, he had this totally down.
- Michael Hitchcock plays critic David van Zyverdan, Lilly’s counterpart. He doesn’t exactly look like Roger Ebert, but you can see the parallels, and the make-up is adequate at concealing Hitchcock. He’s terrific as the vociferous, hyperbolic naysayer who hates everything.
- Richard Kind and Sandra Oh have small parts as marketing people, who are in discussion with the producer about the film campaign. It was hilarious to watch them try to roll with Taylor Brown’s remarks about their posters, to remain polite and receptive to her idiocy.
- Fred Willard and Jane Lynch play Chuck and Cindy, the priceless ‘Entertainment Tonight’-type duo. Willard is his stereotypically crass and clueless self, but I loved his hair – his character wanted to be “with it” so desperately! Meanwhile, Lynch was hilarious, posing in highly-caricatured ways.
- Ricky Gervais and Larry Miller played Martin Gibb and Syd Finkleman, studio heads. It was nice because they both toned it down considerably from their usual personages. Gervais was slimy but not as inappropriate, whereas Miller was mostly straight but wore this terrific toupee that looks entirely fake.
Frankly, I don’t know how this film got made without pissing off many of the people it spoofs so well – Hollywood people are so narcissistic that this may not have been taken lightly. Coincidentally enough, Guest has (as of yet) not written and directed another movie – although he has created a television series.
Were it his swan song, ‘For Your Consideration’ would be a fitting one. Having been immersed in the film industry for so many years, in many capacities and roles, Guest was in the perfect position to observe the nonsensical behaviour of its players and participants. As a final assessment, he could have done worse.
However, for my taste, I would love to see a sequel of sorts to this film. “…And the Winner is…” would takes place on the evening of the Academy Awards, giving us a facetious look at the behind-the-scenes mayhem, self-indulgence and ridiculousness that can take place away from the public eye.
Robert Altman would have been terrific at this, no doubt. But I suspect that Christopher Guest would be even better.
Date of viewing: January 25, 2014