For Your Consideration
Rated PG-13, 86 min. Directed by Christopher Guest. Starring Christopher Guest, Bob Balaban, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Coolidge, John Michael Higgins.
There’s a line from Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead that’s stuck with me ever since I saw it 15 years ago. “We are actors,” it goes. “We are the opposite of people.” That line kept ringing in my head as I was watching For Your Consideration, the new comedy from Guest and his loyal troupe of improv actors about a Hollywood movie production that’s turned upside down when rumors surface on the Internet that one of its cast members is maybe, possibly being considered for an Academy Award nomination. For an actor, nothing justifies the long slog of auditions, commercials, dinner-theatre musicals, bad reviews, and countless rejections more than an Oscar, and at the first mention of her name as a possible nominee, aging actress Marilyn Hack (O’Hara) dives into a long-awaited ocean of theatrical self-satisfaction and painted modesty, much to the disdain of her jealous co-stars but much to the delight of the army of publicists, agents, and studio heads who feed off the production like barnacles. Soon, that tiny acorn of a rumor grows into a mighty oak of overblown publicity and media saturation, and that’s when For Your Consideration begins its descent into broad, mean-spirited satire. Unlike the best movies of this loose-knit group of comedians, like This Is Spinal Tap and Best in Show, For Your Consideration doesn’t have even a drop of affection for its characters. Everyone in the film is a grotesque, a caricature formed almost entirely out of his or her basest, most unlikable qualities: All the actors are insecure, petty, and wildly self-involved; all the publicity men are sleazy whoremongers; and all the radio and TV talk-show hosts are soulless gossips who seem to thrive off the misery of others. All of which sounds about right. But it makes for a remarkably unpleasant movie experience, like you’re being forced to wallow in a dark pit of human degradation and self-loathing and then told to laugh at your predicament. Of course, the real problem with For Your Consideration is that it’s just not funny. Aside from a few shining scenes with Guest, playing a director who acts and sounds like he just came from slicing corn beef at a deli on the Lower East Side, and a line or two from Higgins as a boorish PR man who loves telling people he’s “one-eighth mighty Choctaw,” the cast plays its roles strictly for cheap laughs and low satire; there’s not a finely drawn character in the whole bunch. After the entire bloated, self-congratulatory Hollywood publicity machine has been paraded before your eyes, it’s hard not to feel sick to your stomach, like you’ve just been complicit in something terribly unnatural.
(See interview with Catherine O'Hara at austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid%3A418676.)
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