I need to review any film whose best line is "Dying is easy, playing a lesbian is hard!" There were many other good lines, but that's the only one I'm willing to give away.
Christopher Guest has struck again (see Best in Show), and this time his target is the Hollywood awards season, all the hype that surrounds it on the internet and how that hype can spread virally through the remainder of the entertainment news media. Viral marketing and the way it is created is becoming a familiar concept to all of us these days, but having it lampooned on screen is funnier than I actually thought it would be when I initially heard what this film was about.
The film (a satirical narrative as opposed to Guest's usual Mockumentary style) takes place initially on the set of a small studio film. The fun begins when an anonymous report surfaces online tipping veteran actress Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara) for an Oscar nomination. The buzz starts to build and soon enough more reports surface in print and on TV naming more actors from the film as possible Oscar contenders. Suddenly a little D-list movie changes course and gets hyped as one of the films of the year.
The plot of "Home for Purim" (later changed hilariously by the studio heads to "Home for Thanksgiving" to make it non-denominational) revolves around a dying Matriarch who wants to celebrate one last holiday with her family, including her estranged daughter Rachel (Parker Posey) who hasn't been home in 12 years. When Rachel appears, she marches in with her lesbian lover in tow and demands - at the top of her lungs - to be accepted for who she is.
No part of the film industry escapes punishment here, from the agents, the consultants who design the film's posters and advertising through to the publicists making the EPK and the studio heads strongly suggesting the film be "de-jewicised" and congratulating themselves for the film's nominations buzz. Even the studio security guards, the lighting technicians and craft services get a swift kick. Guest himself plays the Director who is completely flaky and mollifying. TV talk shows and print media get their share too. Some barbs hit the mark, some miss by a mile, but enough of it is on target to keep everything moving along swiftly.
The dialogue feels improvised and probably is in many parts, but when you have a stock company with this kind of talent that's just a bonus. All of the familiar faces are back, most noteably Harry Shearer (otherwise known as the voice of Ned Flanders), Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, Parker Posey, Christopher Moynihan, Fred Willard and Jane Lynch. The film is also loaded with celebrity cameos such as The Office's Ricky Gervais, The L Word favourite Sarah Shahi, Grey's Anatomy babe Sandra Oh, The West Wing's Mary McCormack, the list goes on and quickly becomes a game of celebrity heads.
The movie, however, belongs to Catherine O'Hara who was, ironically, unlucky to miss out on an Oscar nomination for this performance. She goes from someone paddling happily in her employed-yet-obscure world to destroyed Oscar hopeful dressing half her age and with collagen lips the size of a helium balloon. Her non-appearance in any kind of real-life award buzz demonstrates effectively that Hollywood doesn't have a very good sense of humour after all. I don't think you can actually win an Oscar while satirising them; the entire fabric of the universe may actually fold in on itself.
This isn't new ground for Guest, he did touch on a similar subject in The Big Picture which was about an indie director trying to get a film made in Hollywood, and his films almost always lampoon something to do with show business - a rock band, a dog show, folk music. As with his other films, For Your Consideration captures this particular part of the showbiz phenomenon so precisely it's unnerving at times, but always very funny.
I was thrilled with this film right up until the last ten minutes when an ET-like entertainment news show starts interviewing the unlucky non-nominees, thus stripping them of their last bit of dignity. There is such a thing as taking a gag too far, and Guest is usually a master at knowing where to draw the line. I think that he gets a bit confused between narrative satire and the mockumentary style he usually employs and slips a little in the final stages, causing the film to go a bit lop-sided.
For Your Consideration is not really in the same league as films like Best in Show or A Mighty Wind, but the subject matter is light-hearted while having darker, sicker undertones. A bit of lesbian humour, with the lesbians being part of the gag rather than the butt of it, is pretty refreshing too.
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