The Junk Food of Writing

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

For Your Consideration (Guest, 2006)


The cast of For Your Consideration is in awe of the utter mediocrity

Working in an industry that is rumored to be full of narcissistic, avaricious and superficial twits, it’s unsurprising that some of the sharpest filmmakers, like Robert Altman and Billy Wilder, have successfully put their cinematic knife in the belly of the moviemaking machine in
The Player and Sunset Boulevard, respectively.

Christopher Guest is no stranger to scrutinizing a community of losers and uncovering some bizarrely hilarious and dark truths. While small-town theatre, dog shows and folk music were all fresh areas for mockery, Hollywood, on the other hand, is not unexplored territory. Exposing vanity in the moviemaking business is similar to revealing Elton John’s sexuality. In fact, Christopher Guest previously satirized the movie industry in his directorial debut, The Big Picture.

For Your Consideration
, however, focuses on a different aspect of the filmmaking trade – one that should not have a large impact but indubitably does: awards season. Despite this more concentrated scenario, placed on buzz’s affect on actors and overwrought Oscar bait, this monotonous movie still does not have much new to say. The centerpiece in this overstuffed assembly is veteran actress Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara), whom—while filming the preposterously melodramatic Home for Purim—hears from a crew member that there is gossip on the internet of a possible Academy Award nomination for her. Ecstatic by the news, the buzz surrounds the set with most actors modestly stating their happiness for her. Suddenly and inexplicably, Home for Purim, which is just too lame to believe even the most idiotic Academy voters could nominate, begins to gain media coverage for two other stars in the film, Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer) and Callie Webb (Parker Posey).

In an interview, co-writers Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy disclosed their unorthodox methods of scripting. “The film, aside from the movie within a movie, is improvised,” Christopher Guest said. “There is a screenplay without dialogue – just scene by scene breakdowns of exposition and story and the actors have to get certain information out however they would like,” Eugene Levy added. “It’s an outline of only about 25 to 30 pages, but we spend nearly three months delineating scenes and characters. What the free actors do to it in terms of look, sound and voice is completely up to them.”Guest explained that he follows this unique style of filmmaking because “it’s spontaneous and it has some real connection to the way real people talk.”Although Guest and his loyal company have achieved this realistic spontaneity in their previous productions, much of For Your Consideration feels painfully strained. The usually reliable cast members appear as if they are delivering punch lines. While the actors battle to create the glibbest, most incompetent character, the film tops them all in glibness.

At 86 minutes, For Your Consideration is quick to cover all of its satiric bases—too quick. Therefore, the film is never cohesive and organic enough to be a cogent indictment of the absurdity of award season. An example of this slapdash way of filming, similar to a cinematic checklist, is a moment of potential truth when Parker Posey’s character breaks up with her colleague and boyfriend just after she hears Oscar buzz surrounding her performance. Although Parker Posey is a dependable improv actress, this scene ends nearly instantly—eradicating any plausibility the scene deserves. Perhaps she was hungry that day and wanted to cut early.

In his previous films, Guest and the rest of the cast delicately mocked the characters and setting. They poked fun at their stupidity, but always revealed the fragility of each vulnerable character. For Your Consideration is sorely lacking in humanity. This is due to the overabundance of characters; this more of a parade than an ensemble piece.

Christopher Guest and company also target the inanity of the media, since they are mostly to blame for altering the mindsets of those who anticipate nominations. The ensemble frivolously roasts the nauseating kitsch of Entertainment Tonight, TRL and late night shows and the self-involved hosts “Today”-style morning shows, and Charlie Rose to only moderate success.

Christopher Guest wanted to make it clear that “this film isn’t just about the Oscars – this is about the large amount of generic awards shows. It’s gotten to a point where it’s weighed down. It’s, ironically, something I don’t follow.” This is both an appropriate and odd comment for the director and co-writer of For Your Consideration to make. It’s astute of him to note that awards season is clouded with other precursor awards before the Oscars. His admittance that he does not keep track of this horse race is very telling, though. This lack of deep research is evident in the film, since it is completely oblivious to any other award show, therefore deserting any shred of logic.

Ultimately, For Your Consideration comes off as a sloppy and careless rant of someone who spent too much time listening to the self-involved prattle at the cast and crew snack table. Everything is just too cartoonish to be truly biting. For Your Consideration aims for sardonic and only reaches silly.

64 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home