Christopher Guest and his usual cast of cohorts discover what happens to even the most mediocre independent film cast when some blogger throws out the word “Oscar” in “For Your Consideration,” a hysterical send-up of independent filmmaking’s conventions and character actors.
Writer/director Guest is best known for his mockumentaries like “This is Spinal Tap” and “A Mighty Wind.” Though not a parody of a documentary, “For Your Consideration,” co-written by Eugene Levy, features all of Guest’s trademarks: off-the-wall characters, deadpan delivery, a detailed setting and a cameo-rich cast to pull it off.
Guest plays Jay Berman, the director of a film titled “Home for Purim.” Berman could be the love child of Woody Allen and Walter Matthau. Berman’s cast of newcomers and over- the-hill has-beens plod through the drama of a Southern Jewish family (something to the effect of “Gone with the Fiddler on the Roof”) awaiting the return of its prodigal daughter. When the buzz of Oscar nominations reaches the cast, it creates a chain reaction of ego-trips, jealousy and inflated expectations that are as silly as they are sad.
The cast of “Home for Purim” features the melodramatic Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara) as the dying matriarch, and the eager-to- please Victor Allen Miller (Harry Shearer) as the father whose accent migrates from Alabama to the Old Country mid-sentence. The family is completed by Brian Chubb (Christopher Moynihan) as a fresh-off-the-carrier Navy son, and Callie Webb (Parker Posey) as the estranged daughter who brings her lesbian lover home to meet the family.
Guest has reunited the casts of all his prior movies, and there’s not a weak or missing link in the bunch. There’s inappropriate questioning from Fred Willard, quiet indignation from Bob Balaban, utterly nonsequitor conversation from Jennifer Coolidge and even a dose of social awkwardness from Ricky Gervais.
Just as he replicated the social dynamics of a small town in “Waiting for Guffman,” Guest has recreated the entirety of a movie set, from the food trucks to the bored production assistants text messaging from the front porch of a house exterior. When the actors leave their sound stages and walk around the studio lot, they’re surrounded by the comic fodder of astronauts, showgirls and set pieces moving from shoot to shoot.
The only flaw of the film is where it stops, about half an hour of plot development early. However, many of Guest’s films extend past the lifespan of their comedy to the point where the premise becomes more painful than amusing, so this early conclusion might be an act of mercy.
For a hardcore fan, this latest Guest picture is at least Golden Globe–worthy (though this shouldn’t give the cast any ideas). It might even be a good starter film for a newcomer to encounter Guest’s style for the first time.
“For Your Consideration” has all the heart, freshly improvised characters and solid industry insight expected from the writing team of Guest and Levy. They also bring a whole new level of mockery now that they’ve turned their observant humor on themselves and Hollywood royalty. If Guest should ever decide to turn political, he’d easily outdo the efforts of “Saturday Night Live” to parody the current (or any other) administration.
“For Your Consideration” was written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy and directed by Guest.
“For Your Consideration” received 3 1/2 stars.