November 23, 2006

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For Your Consideration (PG-13)
The Christopher Guest gang reassembles, this time to poke fun at inflated-ego actors in a half-baked independent film that freakishly manages to get Oscar buzz in For Your Consideration, a lightweight entry in the Guest oeuvre.

Home for Purim, with its cast of hacky actors spouting Yiddish in Southern accents to tell the story of a son and daughter returning to the family home to visit their dying mother on Purim, is not the first thing that’d come to mind when you think “Oscar hopeful.” But when a movie blogger sneaks on the set and sees Marilyn Hack’s (Catherine O’Hara) Camille-like performance, he proclaims that she’s got nomination potential. This throws Marilyn in a bit of a tizzy, so much so that during one TV appearance she freezes up, letting costar Victor Allen Miller (Harry Shearer) do the talking. Though his character in Purim isn’t much more subtle than Irv the human-sized hot dog he’s best known for playing, Victor is told by the TV show’s hosts that he’s also Oscar-worthy, nearly giving a cardiac to his inept agent (Eugene Levy).

The Oscar buzz gives a charge to the cast even as it starts to play havoc with the stars’ egos. When Callie Webb (Parker Posey), who plays the Purim daughter, is said by Variety to be a contender, it breaks up her relationship with the Purim son. Guess it’s harder to deal with a famous Callie than with the one who starred in the one-woman show “No Penis Intended.”

Oscar buzz for the still-in-production Purim isn’t all roses. Sensing a chance to attract a wider audience, studio suits Syd Finkleman (Larry Miller) and Martin Gibb (Ricky Gervais) ask them to tone down some of the Jewishness in the film — no easy task when the central conceit is a reunion during the Jewish holiday celebrating Queen Esther.

The movie’s best moments feature Jane Lynch and Fred Willard (lesbian dog trainer and clueless dog show announcer, respectively, in Best in Show). Here they play Entertainment Tonight-ish TV hosts, with Willard’s character wearing a haircut that is something between Mohawk and a early Carson Daly/late Ryan Seacrest boy-band-member ’do. His love of asking the awkward question is eclipsed only by his outsized belief in his own importance. It is these kinds of characters that Guest is the very best at skewering — we see them in all their horrible glory and are free to laugh at them, never once troubled in this by having to see an ounce of humanity or humility.

For Your Consideration is full of these characters — perhaps a little too full. Loosened from the constraints of the “mockumentary,” Guest lets his camera wander across the Hollywood landscape. Perhaps, for whatever his next movie is, he should tighten those constraints right back up. We go wide but stay very shallow here, not getting to see nearly enough of these characters to make them more than just a momentary gag.

If you like Guest and his style of deadpan, don’t-break-character comedy, For Your Consideration is moderately funny and only mildly disappointing. B-

Rated PG-13 for sexual references, brief language and because nobody under 13 is going to find humor this dry funny anyway. Directed by Christopher Guest and written by Guest and Eugene Levy, For Your Consideration is an hour and 26 minutes long and is distributed by Warner Independent Pictures. The movie is currently in limited release and is playing in Boston.

— Amy Diaz