I’m a great fan of Christopher Guest’s “mocumentaries” and I enjoyed his latest: For Your Consideration, but while it has some hilarious moments it is not as consistently funny as some of his earlier works such as Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman.
Part of the problem may be that by setting the story in Hollywood and making it about professional actors and filmmakers he has aimed too close to home. The characters sometimes seem a bit too real and we feel their pain a bit too much, so that we are tempted to cry with them instead of laughing at them. And this isn’t supposed to be that sort of movie.
We get rather affecting performances by Catherine O’Hara as a has-been actress (who apparently, except for one brief moment of glory, never was) and Harry Shearer as a veteran actor who is coming to terms with the fact that he is going to be remembered for portraying food products in commercials. Jennifer Coolidge is hilarious as a moronic producer, and the ever-reliable Fred Willard turns in a memorable performance as the repulsive host of a show-biz gossip show who has something very strange on his head.
The “documentary” shows the making of a film called Home for Purim, which is supposed to be a dramatic, sentimental period piece set in the 1940s. It is the story of a Jewish family that gathers to celebrate Purim, the favorite holiday of their dying matriarch. From the start it does not seem likely to be either a great dramatic or commercial success. The actors playing the Jewish family members are painfully white-bread; the screenwriters seem to have only the vaguest notion of what Purim is; and the director (Christopher Guest) is clearly an idiot.
Then “Oscar buzz” sweeps through the set. Suddenly everyone is saying that one or more of the cast members is likely to be nominated for an Academy Award. Buried ambitions come to the surface. Everyone wants to interview the stars. Dollar signs light up in the eyes of the film’s backers.
A couple of suits descend on the set and tell the producer and writers that they should “make it just a little less Jewish, so that everyone will be able to watch it.”
Will they compromise their artistic integrity? Will any of the stars ever make it to the A-list? And what is that thing on Fred Willard’s head? At least some of these questions will be answered as the story comes to a standard Christopher Guest conclusion.