Combustible Celluloid
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With: Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Jennifer Coolidge, Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins, Bob Balaban, Michael McKean, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Ricky Gervais, Larry Miller, Christopher Moynihan, Sandra Oh
Written by: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
Directed by: Christopher Guest
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual references and brief language
Running Time: 86
Date: 09/10/2006

For Your Consideration (2006)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Close But No Oscar

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Back in 2000, Christopher Guest's fake documentary comedy Best in Show gained the approval of audiences and critics alike, but one more thing happened. Out of its multi-talented comedy cast, one actor, Fred Willard, began to be singled out. Some writers buzzed about his qualification for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. This enthusiasm was entirely appropriate; Willard's bizarre, clueless deadpan comments as a dog show commentator perked up the film's otherwise sagging third act.

Of course, the nomination never came. Oscar and comedy have never been comfortable bedfellows. (Benicio Del Toro won for the far less interesting Traffic, up against Jeff Bridges, Albert Finney, Joaquin Phoenix and Willem Dafoe.)

Now Willard's pals, writer/director Christopher Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy, have perhaps tried to avenge him with their new spoof, For Your Consideration. (The title comes from the promotional materials and DVD screeners that Oscar voters receive every winter.) But though their efforts come from an admirable place, the final product -- which swaps the documentary format for straight comedy -- is an almost complete misfire.

Rather than taking aim at the movie industry and the forces that cause Oscar and serious, message-driven drivel to gravitate toward one another, For Your Consideration decides to make fun of its hapless subjects. Tired, aging, small-time actress Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara) is currently going through the motions, playing a dying matriarch in a dreadful-looking drama called Home for Purim (a Jewish holiday celebrating the Feast of Lots). Unexpectedly, an Internet rumor kicks off some serious Oscar buzz, not only for Marilyn, but also for her co-stars Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer) and Callie Webb (Parker Posey).

The only big laughs in For Your Consideration come, once again, from Willard, playing the insufferable, stupid host of an "Entertainment Tonight"-like TV show, as well as Jennifer Coolidge, getting more mileage from her unique dumb blonde character, this time as one of Purim's producers. (She complains about having to write checks for "ridiculous things, like snacks.")

Otherwise, the movie includes musty old items like the ineffectual Hollywood agent (Levy), a clueless director (Guest) and playwrights-turned-screenwriters (Bob Balaban and Michael McKean) with too much integrity. Guest actually expects to get laughs from a publicist (John Michael Higgins) that has never heard of the Internet, and from the fact that the timid producers change the film's title to the "less ethnic" Home for Thanksgiving.

Additionally, the film seems to question whether Marilyn actually deserves her Oscar, but O'Hara is so touching in her portrayal -- mouthing Bette Davis' lines in Jezebel (1938) before sadly clicking off her TV -- that For Your Consideration backfires by ridiculing her. She truly loves this craft, and her love whips around and bites her in the hand. The want of recognition for a job well done should not be the target here; the target should be fear. Everyone in Hollywood fears that his or her work is all for nothing, and that someone will find out that they're all frauds. The Oscars are a tiny gold-plated shield against this fear, but For Your Consideration lives too far inside that shield to truly see what's beyond. For Your Consideration

Best Buy Co, Inc.