Catherine O’Hara as Marilyn Hack
Harry Shearer as Victor Allan Miller
Christopher Guest as Jay Berman
Ed Begley Jr. as Sandy Lane
Eugene Levy as Morley Orfkin
Jennifer Coolidge as Whitney Taylor Brown
Jordan Black as Whitney’s Assistant
Parker Posey as Callie Webb
Ricky Gervais as Martin Gibb
Larry Miller as Syd Finkleman
Craig Bierko as Talk Show Host
John Michael Higgins as Corey Taft
Bob Balaban as Philip Koontz
Michael McKean as Lane Iverson
Fred Willard as Chuck Porter
Jane Lynch as Cindy Martin
Christopher Moynihan as Brian Chubb
Jim Piddock as Simon Whitset
Don Lake as Ben Lilly – Love It Film Critic
Michael Hitchcock as David van Zyverden – Hate It Film Critic
Rachael Harris as Mary Pat Hooligan
Sandra Oh as Marketing Person #1
Richard Kind as Marketing Person #2
Scott Williamson as Skip
Loudon Wainwright III as Nominee Ben Connelly
Rick Gonzalez as Chillaxin’ Host
Directed by Christopher Guest
Christopher Guest’s parody of Hollywood and Oscar buzz isn’t nearly as immediate or lasting as previous mockumentaries, though it does hit close to home with its perfectly nailed Hollywood stereotypes maybe a little too close.
On the set of the new indie movie “Home for Purim,” tensions flare as Oscar buzz is hinted at for the two leads Marilyn Hack and Victor Allen Miller (Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer) while the incompetent director Jay Berman (Christopher Guest) tries to get his movie made, often making decisions that don’t make the screenwriters (Bob Balaban, Michael McKean) very happy.
“For Your Consideration” might be a hard movie to review if you’re even remotely involved in the entertainment business, as most critics are. It’s not that the latest from Christopher Guest (“Best in Show,” “A Mighty Wind”) isn’t funny, because it does have humorous moments, but it also may hit a bit too close to home for anyone who’s done the junket circuit (when a bunch of “journalists” sit in a room throwing questions at talent as their traipsed from room-to-room) or been involved in Oscar punditry (guilty as charged!) Many of the jokes and the stereotypes come a bit too easy to Guest’s cast of improvisers, but anyone who has experienced the silliness firsthand might not find it so funny. Then again, Guest and his long-time writing partner have already struck comedy gold three times, so they must realized this stuff would be just as funny to those not in the biz.
The biggest noticeable different with “For Your Consideration” is that it jettisons Guest’s tried-and-true “mockumentary” format in favor of an omnipresent fly-on-the-wall look behind the scenes of a small indie movie called “Home for Purim,” a cookie-cutter period drama where a dysfunctional family reunite for the holidays. (The joke there being that Purim isn’t exactly a “family gathering” type holiday.) The film’s two leads, as played by industry vets Catherine O’Hara and Harry Shearer, have been around the block, and this movie is a big deal for them, especially when a reporter starts circulating Oscar buzz for their performances on the internet. Screenwriters Philip Koontz and Lane Iverson (Bob Balaban, Michael McKean) are more concerned with keeping their original vision of “Purim” pure, despite the incompetence of the film’s director, played with intended irony by Guest himself.
This type of movie-within-a-movie comedy doesn’t always work, since it depends on the viewing knowing enough about the industry to understand why certain caricatures are funny, but Guest and Levy go a bit more mainstream than movies like David Mamet’s “State and Main” or the recent “Tristram Shandy.” As serious and dramatic as “Home for Purim” is intended to be, it ends up being funny, if only from the way the seemingly non-Jewish cast insert badly-pronounced Yiddish words into every line of dialogue. It would have been even funnier if there hadn’t been at least three movies this year alone that used this same “home for the holidays” formula, complete with the daughter’s “special female friend.”
Half the fun of Christopher Guest’s movies are waiting for his regulars to first show up as their wacky characters, but the ensemble cast has become far too unwieldy with way too many characters, and few of them really getting enough time on screen to make their characters stick. Jennifer Coolidge’s spoiled rich producer isn’t much of a departure from her “Best in Show” character, and Eugene Levy, who stole the last few movies with his odd characters, takes a smaller part as Victor Miller’s unscrupulous agent, an obvious caricature that’s been done much better by Jeremy Piven on “Entourage.” Parker Posey, who’s normally funny without even trying, seems to be trying too hard, especially with her schizophrenic one-woman show that’s funny for about a second.
On the other hand, Catherine O’Hara is so good in her role as an older actress desperate to get some acknowledgment after decades of hard work that her intentionally overly-dramatic performance may end up being nominated for an Oscar in a bit of life-imitating-art irony. She’s the movie’s shining star, since her character rings true, as one can imagine how many actresses have had similar off-camera musings about the possibilities of being rewarded for their work. Likewise, Fred Willard and Jane Lynch have way too much fun spoofing hosts of entertainment shows like “Access Hollywood” and “Entertainment Tonight.” Their on-set interviews with the cast are hilarious, but Guest overuses the duo, so that by the time we get their “crystal ball” Oscar predictions, the joke has already run its course. Some of the better cameos include Ricky Gervais as the ignorant studio president who wants to change everything about the movie, including all “the Jewish stuff,” and even more impressive cameo from the underrated Craig Bierko, who does as good a job lampooning Jay Leno as he did impersonating Tom Cruise in “Scary Movie 4.”
By the time Oscar season comes around, Victor Miller is trying to act “young and hip,” appearing on a TRL type show and Marilyn is so pumped up with botox and outlandish make-up to make her look younger that it’s almost an anti-climax when the Oscar nominations are announced to a predictable outcome. Maybe “For Your Consideration” would have been stronger if it broke away from the actual cockeyed logic that goes into predicting and pickings awards every year, but after a great build-up, the movie’s ending is a bit of a let-down, if only because it goes exactly where one might expect.
The Bottom Line:
Who knows whether anyone that doesn’t work in the entertainment biz will fully appreciate the humor of “For Your Consideration” as Christopher Guest’s cast of regulars create far-too-real Hollywood stereotypes, but it’s worth a few chuckles even if the overall story isn’t nearly as strong as it needs to be to have any sort of lasting effect.
For Your Consideration opens in select cities on Friday, November 17, and in more theatres on November 22.