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Hollywood send-up. No-name actors are making a low-budget period drama called "Home for Purim," when an anonymous post on the Internet suggests that one performance is Oscar-worthy. Then, two more cast members get Oscar-related press: buzz in "Variety" and appearances on TV prompt the studio executives to insist on changes in the script in anticipation of a blockbuster. Jump ahead a few months to the days before Oscar nominees are announced: just the possibility of a nomination has changed the actors' lives. Agents, publicists, make-up artists, local celebrity reporters, and other bit players round out the backstage ensemble. Hooray for Hollywood! Written by
Guest seems to be pushing the envelope with Hollywood in this feature, but it isn't funny it is random, chaotic, and emotional when it should not be. Being a fan of Guest's earlier work, I was initially excited about this outing, but upon viewing it just didn't gel together emotionally or passionately like Guests other work. This seemed like Guest made a film to spoof the industry, but instead created a dismal look at how comedy can self destruct, even with your regulars trying to make us laugh.
Guest announced in 2005 that he would stop making the "mockumentary" because he thought they were not funny any longer. Hoping to see bigger and braver things from this pioneering director, I hoped "For Your Consideration" would be a fresh chapter in his repertoire of films, but alas, it was nothing of the sort. To begin, the characters seemed stale and uncharismatic. As a "mockumentary", the audience may have had the opportunity to see these actors consume their roles, to build unknown back stories, or to challenge themselves to take their character to the limit, but it never happened as a full-feature film. This was a regular comedy that fruitfully never picked up speed, never pushed the limit, and tried to use similar Guest techniques that would have only worked as a mockumentary. It began to implode with the characters, since we couldn't see them talking directly to us, we had to follow their moves watch them as they failed, and attempted to make us laugh with their irregularities. Again, what would typically make us laugh in a mockumentary-styled film failed at this level. To demonstrate the error, let's begin with Catherine O'Hara. In Guest's work, she is typically a staple of comedy. Her portrayal of Mickey Crabbe in "A Might Wind" was phenomenal, but in this film it seemed forced, unfunny, and catastrophic. From the opening scene, O'Hara never really defines her character. Is she pushing for freedom, is she ignorant to the truth, or is she trying to fit within the Hollywood scene? Valid questions that never quite get off the ground as we are bombarded with more and more "guest" characters that push this little film into non-existence. Harry Shearer is another example, typically he is genuine in his roles for Guest, but in this feature he just felt stale. He wasn't trying to be funny, nor did he push any level of comedy. The entire hot dog bit was cliché, as was Eugene Levy's performance as his agent. I think that is where problems occurred in this film there wasn't anything original about Guest's characters in this film, and I think the actors knew it. Fred Willard was the only humorous element to this film giving us the exact same performance as he did in "Best in Show". This may not have been a mockumentary, but it would have been a mockumentary that would have saved this little feature.
Guest had trouble behind the camera with this film. His camera work seemed staged and oblique. There was no questioning scene that pushed the limit or forced us to see Guest in a new light. He teased the audience, giving us hopes that midway through this film he would transform it into a mockumentary, but alas it never happened. The stages were set, but nothing happened. I couldn't tell if it was the actors that weren't as funny, or Guest's vision was just weak. As a viewer, you find yourself standing outside of this film. You know what Guest's potential can be, yet when you watch this you know that there are just actors playing actors playing preset roles. The addition of Ricky Gervais, Sandra Oh, and Rachael Harris made this Guest film feel like a downtrodden Woody Allen film. Was it a homage to him? The building blocks of this story were weak, thus the entire structure seemed to fall when the pieces fell apart. Comedy was horrible, the story was non-existent, and the actors just seemed used and tired of the time, place, and story.
One other aspect that bewildered me, is anyone else tired of the sad, unsung heroes of Christopher Guest's films seeming like they are being stepped on each minute of the feature. They were fun in "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best in Show", they were endearing in "A Mighty Wind", but in this film they just felt hurt, and at times violent. While I did chuckle at Willard showing up at the non-nominees doors the next day, I thought that crossed a line from funny to violently sad. Again, I did laugh, but not in that boisterous "Christopher Guest" sort of way. I think that best defines this film, it had its moments, but overall it just felt bland. There was no flavor. The actors realized this, but Guest continued with this sad little project. Not a positive mark on his report card.
Overall, I wasn't impressed. This late in the game there is a level of necessity needed, either step up your choice of films (like direct a drama or science fiction) or continue growing the genre you have exploited. "For Your Consideration" will have some chuckling moments, but nothing that screams amazing. Guest could have strengthened his role as a comic genius by creating this same film under the guise of a mockumentary and it would have been phenomenal. There was a lacking air of originality with this film and the actors genuinely didn't fit their parts. This was a sad film that could have been more. I saw the potential, but nothing came out of it. I will continue to give Guest a shot with his amazing back list of films, but a continuation of this type of film will lessen his appeal. Watch it once, but not a film to keep in your collection.
Grade: ** out of *****
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