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For Your Consideration

By G. Brian Davis | Posted 11/22/2006

Here lie the remains of the Christopher Guest mockumentary, may it rest in peace. Distressed at the passing of this eccentric cinematic tradition? Don't be. Writer/director/actor Christopher Guest, renowned for such minimally scripted ventures as Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind, has abandoned his signature formula in favor of a more traditional narrative, with absolute success.

For Your Consideration chronicles the triumphs and tribulations of the cast and crew of Home for Purim, a low-budget, low-expectation indie drama. Beginning with quiet Oscar buzz for actress Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara), the wave of media attention quickly gathers momentum, tumbling our unlikely heroes along with it. From the shadows of obscurity, suddenly the cast and crew find themselves in the brilliant limelight of talk-show hosts, studio executives, even the actors' own neglectful managers. One by one the mock cast members succumb to irresistible fantasies of Oscar recognition, until the fantasies become expectations, and finally obsessions. "But of course I'm in it because I love the work," becomes a tired line, as narcissism rapidly consumes the would-be stars.

The chemistry among Guest's veteran troupe is rich, distilled by years of collaboration. A twitch here, a troubled frown there, the acting is natural and intuitive, an absolute necessity in such an understated and underwritten script. From Marilyn's visually obvious but never mentioned plastic surgery to a studio exec (Larry Miller) tapping a wineglass with his cell phone to command silence, the largely improvised script is rife with small but beautifully scathing touches. The interview as a comic device remains, but writers Guest and Eugene Levy have integrated it more cohesively within the narrative by throwing the lead characters to the wolves of journalism.

If the entire film industry is fair game for caricature, the true target of the movie's lampoon is the media. Talk-show hosts catch the sharpest barbs, in a caustic parody of duos such as Regis and Kelly. "Where the heck have you been?" the smile-plastered host asks actor Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer). "Well, actually I've been teaching in--" "It was a rhetorical question," the host butts in, while the smile remains the same.

Guest and Levy's adroit blend of tragedy and comedy scalds all the more because it is so readily plausible. While Guest fans will discern familiar themes and character arcs--the corrosive effects of success, the power of the underdog--the characters still feel fresh and all too human in their quirky faults. "Nothing is more important to me than you," Victor's manager (Levy) reassures him as he excuses himself to answer a personal call. With this well-honed sense of satire, Christopher Guest has distinguished himself as master of the realm between reality and the absurd.

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