For years, Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, along with an ever-increasing cast of regulars, have been lampooning the crazy lengths we go for the things we want. Starting with Waiting For Guffman, the group has taken potshots at increasingly higher profile groups. And now, with For Your Consideration, they finally set their sights on the biggest fish of them all: Hollywood. In a way, this film brings Guest's career full-circle, while at the same time introducing new elements into his successful formula.
The film centers around the production of a small, out of the way picture called Home For Purim. Starring a collection of would-be acting legends and some up-and-comers, no one has terribly high hopes for the picture. It's a bit of a last chance for actress Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara), who had some notoriety early in her career, but has since fallen into obscurity. Similarly, Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer), best known for playing a wiener on TV commercials, hopes this film will boost his profile as a serious actor. As the production progresses, word gets out that Marilyn might get an Oscar nomination for her role. From there, the accolades blossom to include Victor and Callie Webb (Parker Posey), much to the delight of the film's publicist (John Michael Higgins), as well as Miller's agent (Eugene Levy). But how will the prospects of fame affect the people in the limelight?
It's easy to accuse Guest's films as being nothing but a series of inside jokes, but over the course of their four movies together, Guest and Levy have focused more and more on the storylines. So much so that their last outing, A Mighty Wind strained against the mockumentary format that Guest had used since he starred in This Is Spinal Tap. This time around, the film, while not tightly plotted, plays as straight fiction. This allows Guest to focus on a smaller group, instead of trying to force everyone into starring roles.
The real stars of the piece are Catherine O'Hara and Harry Shearer as Marilyn Hack and Victor Allan Miller. O'Hara has been with the group since Waiting For Guffman, and has had a varied career otherwise, as well. Here she gives one of her best performances. As Marilyn Hack, she goes through an incredible emotional (and physical) transformation, from humble actress who knows she will never gain any recognition for her work to a glory-hound who thinks of nothing but that little golden statue. Shearer goes through his own metamorphosis; one that absolutely does not suit his character (which is what makes it so funny).
Of course, this being a Christopher Guest project, the cast extends far beyond the two leads, with more names than I could list here, but includes Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Ed Begley Jr., Michael McKean, John Michael Higgins, Michael Hitchcock, Jane Lynch, and Christopher Guest himself. To say that this group is hilarious is an understatement. This may be the funniest collection of people working in movies today. Whenever they get together to make a film, it's an event.
Some people have criticized For Your Consideration for not being as funny as their previous works, but I absolutely cannot see why. Sure, the actors no longer get equal screen time, but that doesn't mean they've become any less absurd or hilarious. I enjoyed this picture that I had to watch it again to catch jokes I missed because I was laughing too loud. There are countless quotable lines and memorable moments, and I believe it can stand quite proudly with the rest of Mr. Guest's oeuvre.
The biggest difference between For Your Consideration and its predecessors is the sense of sadness. While Waiting For Guffman and A Mighty Wind had an element of disappointment, For Your Consideration openly examines the deflation of the characters as they find their dreams dashed. The ending, while quite funny, also has a morose sense of loss, as if Marilyn Hack can never go back to being the unassuming woman she was before her ordeal.
I saw For Your Consideration in the theaters on opening night, and I remember it looking much better than the 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 transfer Warner Bros. presents here. Guest's mockumentary roots betray him here, as the image is generally grainy. But that wasn't the problem. The real problem is overall softness and digital noise. The ever-present grain leads to slight mosquito noise. It's not pervasive, but I was disappointed with the image quality.
While Warner does provide a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, it's not a very strong one. Despite being a brand new film, the audio isn't anything to shout about. There's no score except for the movie-in-a-movie sequences, and no directional effects at all. What we do get is a lot of dialogue, which can all be heard without a problem.
Commentary by Director/Co-Writer Christopher Guest and Co-Writer Eugene Levy: Having made four films together, Levy and Guest are quite comfortable with each other by now, as is evidenced by their easy-going commentary. They explain some of the reasoning behind the films they make ("Stupider is better," Guest explains at one point), as well as point out some of the cameos. Occasionally, Levy makes Guest laugh. This isn't the strongest Levy/Guest commentary out there, but it's still entertaining.
Deleted/Extended Scenes: An excellent collection of deleted scenes, extended scenes, and alternate takes, totaling over forty minutes. The first thirty are all hilarious and essential viewing. The last ten are more like screen tests and are far less interesting.
Home For Purim Poster Gallery: As anyone who has seen the film knows, one of the funniest scenes revolved around the marketing of Home For Purim. Here we get a great collection of promotional materials for the mock movie, including several which did not appear in the main film.
Theatrical Trailer: 'Nuff said.
For Your Consideration marks an interesting turn for Christopher Guest, away from mockumentary and into straight satire. The results are frequently hilarious, with some excellent performances, especially by Catherine O'Hara. The DVD itself is a mixed bag, with less than stellar audio and video, but a healthy dose of humorous extras picks it up again. Recommended.
Daniel Hirshleifer is the High Definition Editor for DVD Talk.