November 10, 2012

For Your Consideration

Of all Christopher Guest's comedies, For Your Consideration (2006) emerges as the most uncanny in its portrayals, this time of Hollywood. (Perhaps this is because I'm more familiar with movies than I am with folk musicians, dog trainers, and local theater.) Guest co-wrote the script with Eugene Levy, both of whom appear, along with the usual suspects, playing various members of the Hollywood community, from actors to crew members to publicists and talk show hosts.

If there is a central character, it's Marilyn Hack (played with stunning, hallucinatory, grotesque perfection by the great Catherine O'Hara). Marilyn is a virtual has-been actress who is finally returning to the silver screen in an over-the-top soaper that's part Tennessee Williams, part From Here to Eternity. It's a turbulent drama about a Jewish family's frosty reunion during the Purim holiday season, aptly titled Home For Purim. Marilyn hears rumors, via the internet, about an Oscar nomination coming her way, and inflates the rumors into Oscar buzz, some fake fairy dust that soon sprinkles onto the heads of her co-stars, played by Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, and Christopher Moynihan.

It's tragically funny to watch all the bees working their industry, all of them vying for queenhood, some of them with expert precision, others with an astonishing lack of self-awareness. You can only emerge from this movie feeling you've looked directly into the tortured, ironic, narcissistic soul of Hollywood itself, as though this least-documentary of all Guest's films is the one actual documentary: a record as exact and untouched by narrative intention as C-SPAN.

The supporting cast includes scene-stealing Fred Willard as the co-host of a movie talk show. He's really on fire in this movie, whipping out little throwaway lines with stunning ease and subtlety: his character seems like a complete moron, yet he's also brimming with ironic hostility, aimed at the Hollywood types that make his show. Jane Lynch plays his co-star. She's a delight, but she is a overshadowed by Willard's hammy deviousness. Jennifer Coolidge plays a dippy producer who appears to be constantly drunk. Coolidge never gets as much screen time as you'd want, considering how funny she is. With John Michael Higgins, Ed Begley, Jr., Bob Balaban, Michael McKean, and Carrie Aizley; and in cameo appearances: Ricky Gervais, Sandra Oh, John Krasinski, Paul Dooley, Hart Bochner, and Claire Forlani.

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