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For Your Consideration’ review

Cassie Belek | Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Christopher Guest may be the king of mockumentaries, but his latest project, “For Your Consideration,” is styled as a narrative – a trait that displays hilarity but hinders the overall potential of the film. Guest successfully creates a stinging satire of the effects of Oscar buzz on Hollywood, but the narrative structure leads to underdeveloped characters and the absence of sight gags that are central to his films.

“For Your Consideration” follows three actors in the fictional movie “Home for Purim” as they learn from Internet rumors and television shows that they will undoubtedly receive an Academy Award nomination. Egos inflate and art is abandoned for mainstream acceptance. The title of the movie is changed to “Home for Thanksgiving” to appeal to a wider audience, and the potentially nominated actors abandon their independent roots and give in to the plastic surgery, fake tanning and hair dying temptations of Hollywood.

As usual with Guest’s projects, the film is largely improvised. The director’s regular cast of comedians is back to fulfill new over-the-top roles. Standout performers include the perpetual scene-stealer Fred Willard (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) as Chuck Porter, an entertainment television host, and the tall and mighty Jane Lynch (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) as his co-host Cindy Martin, a not-so-subtle imitation of Nancy O’Dell. Willard asks irrelevant personal questions while Lynch parodies O’Dell’s stance and walk in a hilarious fusion of a beauty queen and a robot.

However, Willard and Lynch are not the only performers to receive laughs. Jennifer Coolidge (“Legally Blonde”) portrays producer Whitney Taylor Brown with her now signature “dumb blonde” characteristics. Guest’s co-writer Eugene Levy delights as clueless agent Morley Orfkin, and Guest himself produces enough laughs with his character’s frizzy haircut. Ricky Gervais (BBC’s “The Office”), already a comedic genius, is a natural addition to the Guest troupe as studio suit Martin Gibb.

The star of the fictitious movie, as well as “Consideration,” is Catherine O’Hara (“Home Alone”) as Marilyn Hack – a still-struggling independent actress who loses herself amongst the Oscar buzz. Similar to her performance in Guest’s “A Mighty Wind,” O’Hara brings comedy tinged with sadness, but this time adds a pathetic quality to the fading actress. It takes talent to portray a mix of hope and desperation behind a face lift, but O’Hara does this with ease, perhaps prompting her own Oscar buzz.

While “Consideration” is an interesting creative turn for Guest, his strength lies in the mockumentary, and one leaves the theater wondering what could have been if this latest film had taken that route. In his other films, such as 1996’s “Waiting for Guffman,” characters often develop through fake, documentary-style interviews. While some filmmakers might view this direct approach as an easy crutch, Guest uses them perfectly, aided by his talented friends and actors. “Consideration” abandons this technique, but could perhaps benefit from it. The film may also have benefited from the addition of Guest’s characteristic sight gags that produce memorable comedic moments.

Just like “Home for Purim,” the appeal of “Consideration” is limited. Guest’s previous films focused on more obscure topics such as small-town musical productions, competitive dog shows, and a folk music tribute. Hollywood is a rather easy target that has been hit multiple times, and only those who closely follow the industry will understand all of the satire employed. “Consideration” may not be as strong a comedy as its predecessors but it still offers an amusing inside look into Hollywood and the effects of award-season buzz. Guest and company shine as they interact with ease and enjoyment, but the auteur must choose his next project carefully. While he should be lauded for this latest risk, the mockumentary is his best option.