For Your Consideration

After lancing the worlds of dog shows, folk music and amateur dramatics in his recent work, writer/director and Spinal Tap co-creator Christopher Guest film turns his attention inwards for his latest film. For Your Consideration focuses on the nature of filmmaking and, in particular, how the on-set perspective can change when the little movie you’re doing for scale suddenly appears to be an outside bet for the Oscars.

Guest’s familiarity with this world — one assumes he knows more about studio politics than, say, dog shows — gives For Your Consideration a sharp and archly-knowing edge, from Home For Purim, its brilliantly observed film within-a-film — a low-key period melodrama — to the gradual changes that affect its cast. This is a bitingly funny satire and one that gives the normal Guest ensemble cast — Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, etc — a chance to really cut to the quick. The rivalry / support that defines on-set relationships, the luvviedom, the willingness to compromise, all come under scrutiny and are dissected with a scalpel-sharp wit.

O’Hara is particularly good as Marilyn Hack, the middle-aged jobbing actress who is long overdue a big break but who, when it comes, can’t handle it. Once the Oscar buzz starts circulating, she reinvents herself as a botoxed, short-skirted harpy leading to perhaps the film’s funniest moment when she — and her immobile facial features — lead an acting class. If there’s a downside, it’s that For Your Consideration is 90-minutes of in-joke and it’s certainly debatable that your common-or-garden cinemagoer won’t pick up on every reference. There are still obvious pleasures to be found — notably Fred Willard and Jane Lynch and their absolutely spot-on pastiche of US entertainment report shows — but some of the subtleties are probably best enjoyed by those with more than a passing acquaintance to the industry. Or who’ve at least read Premiere magazine once in a while.

SECOND OPINION | Stuart O'Connor:
Hands up all those who can remember who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1998. Or the Best Actress Oscar in 1980. Any takers? No? Well, the 1998 Best Actor was Roberto Benigni for Life Is Beautiful, and the 1980 Best Actress was Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby. And tell me ... where are they now? That, sadly is the one place where For Your Consideration falls down. It's sending up something that most people really don't care about; something that is forgotten a month or two after the Oscars telecast. It tries hard to be a clever film about Hollywood hype, and how it can do more harm than good to a movie. And it does succeed; there are plenty of laughs, and terrific performances all round. But the only people who really take awards such as the Oscars of the Baftas seriously are those who win the awards themselves. That said, as a clever behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood, it's terrific, and Guest proves once again what an accomplished filmmaker and satirist he really is.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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