Somewhere in the midsection of “For Your Consideration,” everyone agrees the Oscars are “the backbone of an industry that has no backbone.” It’s an appropriate observation, considering the spineless unraveling of any group of actors the instant someone says the magic words “Oscar buzz.”
Having covered rock stars, dog shows and community theater, actor/writer/director Christopher Guest (“A Mighty Wind”) now takes on the movie industry with his signature mockumentry style.
Guest plays the director of “Home for Purim,” a touching tale of a Southern family with a lesbian daughter and a dying mother that comes together for one last crank of the grager (noisemakers used for the holiday). With a single mention of lead actress Marilyn Hack’s (Catherine O’Hara, “A Mighty Wind”) Oscar-worthy performance, the cast of “Purim” falls into disarray. Relationships fail, body parts get nipped and tucked and a 60-year-old man ends up grinding with young girls on a faux “TRL”-style set – the classic pitfalls of Hollywood.
If only Guest hadn’t fallen as well. His previous efforts, including “Waiting for Guffman,” “Best in Show” and the perennial favorite “Spinal Tap” capitalized on stereotypical characters, but those characters kept their human side as well. The cast members in “For Your Consideration” are just the stereotypes – the actress who only wants to be called by her character’s name, the producer who doesn’t want to be filmed from behind – without some gravitas to give them substance.
In several inspired segments, Guest proves he still has his comedic game down. Though some bits are overused and tiring – a running gag of the aging actors’ lack of knowledge about the internet quickly gets old – there’s also a gay makeup artist with a wife, a comment that a set of lights are brighter than Stephen Hawking and the idea that one can’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater because you’ll get a wet, critically injured baby.”
Familiar faces pop up, including Sandra Oh (TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy”) and Ricky Gervis (the U.K.’s “The Office”). But while Gervis plays well as the head of the studio coming off as a British Harvey Weinstein, the rest aren’t given much to do. Guest is beloved in Hollywood and his movies have a cult-like following, but it’s almost as if these popular actors provided cameos just to say they were in a Guest film instead of an actual film.
The movie seems stifled, without the easy improv feel which categorizes Guest’s previous films. That’s not to say the actors didn’t give it their all: O’Hara deserves an Oscar nomination for her work here (ironic, no?), completely charming her way across the screen. And Fred Willard (“Anchorman”) finds humor in the pain of others as Chuck Porter, a reporter for an “Entertainment Tonight”-like television show.
Plainly speaking, the whole idea of the awards-show season, when looked at critically, is just silly. Of course, if you’re actually nominated, it’s a large honor and all the hoopla is well-deserved and blah blah blah. But going on the promotional circuit (from late-night television to radio) never happens to these less-than-indie-budget filmmakers just thrust into the arena. The actors of “Home for Purim” (eventually turned into “Home for Thanksgiving” to give it a wider audience) don’t fit into the Hollywood award-show world. They seem to just be doing it for the love of the work itself.
What’s wrong with that?
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
For Your Consideration
At the Michigan Theater