Anyone who watched last year's Oscar ceremony surely had to take a deep breath of exhaustion at what became the culmination of a solid decade of congratulating mediocrity. In the last two decades, Hollywood has offered up more self-deprecation, but it doesn't come close to its flabbergasting self-congratulation, and Oscar is a big part of that. The last time the Academy awarded the best film of the corresponding year was 1993, when it dutifully handed the little gold man to Clint Eastwood
's unflinching revisionist western, Unforgiven. So, who better to attack this institute of imbecility than comic revisionist Christopher Guest
? As it turns out, For Your Consideration isn't quite the snappy attack dog one might have hoped for. In fact, it comes on with the ferocity of a mildly-disgruntled schnauzer.
It begins with director Jay Berman (Guest, doing the Jewish thing) and his film, Home for Purim, a family drama about a young woman's return home to a dying mother. The mother in question is played by Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara
), a washed-up aging actress who is best known for playing a blind prostitute in another film. Through the wonders of the internet, she gets wind of a rumor that she might be nominated for an Academy Award. Shortly after, Victor Allan Miller (the invaluable Harry Shearer
), the male lead, gets hint of a nomination for his performance, along with Callie Webb (Parker Posey
), who plays the daughter. The buzz makes life sweeter, and inevitably more complicated, for everyone involved, including Callie's boyfriend and co-star Brian (Christopher Moynihan
), Victor's agent (Eugene Levy
), and the producer (riotous Jennifer Coolidge
). It also brings out studio heads (Ricky Gervais
and Larry Miller
), the PR guy (John Michael Higgins
), and two Hollywood news anchors (Fred Willard
and Jane Lynch
) to make the film more palatable. Article continues below
Guest's stylistic shift here from his usual mockumentary to a normal narrative structure results in a transitional film. The lack of personal time with the characters distances them from the audience. Guest's cavalcade of miscreants has been proven incredibly adept at bringing out the humor and the humanity in their pleasantly flawed characters for three films straight. However, For Your Consideration's targets seem to be misplaced: He's mocking the actors and actresses that are duped into believing they are going to be overnight celebrities rather than the studios and media circus that manipulate them and the system to turn a bigger profit. Rarely has a film seemed so confidently condescending to its characters. Rather than seeing the mortal foolishness in the actors, we only see their preening egotism flourishing after the nomination whispers. It makes the film seem cruel and cold towards characters that are simply human, and it's out of place for Guest.
That's not to say that Guest's troupe have lost their knack for making people laugh. Their skills at improv seem as sharp and keen as ever, with special kudos to Coolidge and Higgins who steal scenes with venerable glee. The usually dependable Levy (who co-wrote the script) takes a more direct route than in the last two films, leaving his character struggling for laughs. O'Hara, per usual, can't help but be funny and seems to really understand Hack (perfect name, by the way) for the first half of the film. Newfound Guest supporter Gervais isn't given enough screen time, but he still brings springy humor to his scenes, along with Willard and Lynch, who nail their characters with noteworthy shallowness. The spirit of comic bravado can still be felt underneath, but the film is undeniably flawed, almost fatally. Award-worthy it ain't.