In 1949 Life Magazine described the four grades of laughs—there’s the titter, the yowl, the belly laugh and the boffo. For Your Consideration, the new comedy from the team of Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, is a good movie with quite a few titters, a couple of yowls, at least one belly laugh, but stops just short of big boffo laughs.
Beginning in late October every year the big movie studios take out ‘For Your Consideration’ ads in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. Basically these ads are a way to remind Academy voters about award-worthy achievements from the past year. Those three magic words can build a career, inflate a salary and move performers from not hot to hot in a flash. This new improvised comedy from the makers of Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman details what happens when members of the Home for Purim cast are plucked from obscurity and infected with Oscar fever.
Catherine O’Hara plays the aptly named Marilyn Hack, a veteran actress whose chances of stardom are behind her. When she gets wind of an internet rumor that her performance in this overwrought melodrama might attract the attention of the Academy he long dormant hopes of stardom are awakened. The resulting award hype spreads to everyone around her and soon her co-stars are being buzzed about by award season handicappers and everyone has Oscar mania.
Guest, with his usual collaborator Eugene Levy have come up with an occasionally touching, often revealing look at the outskirts of the dream factory and its citizens. The kind of actors who struggle and are best known for playing giant dancing hot dogs on television commercials. O’Hara’s Hack is a poignant example of an actor who never broke through but refuses to give up on her dreams, convinced that celebrity is just around the corner. Harry Shearer, best known as the voice of Ned Flanders (and many others) on The Simpsons and as Derek Smalls, bass player for Spinal Tap, is Victor Allan Miller, a journeyman actor who still has to audition for radio voice work. Together they represent the 98% of the Screen Actors Guild who spend most of their careers either unemployed or underused.
For Your Consideration isn’t as drop dead funny as some of Guest’s other efforts like Best in Show but does feature great work from the ensemble cast. Catherine O’Hara just might find herself with a For Your Consideration ad in real life, while Fred Willard happily and hilariously skewers television entertainment reporters. Dependable players Eugene Levy and Jennifer Coolidge hand in wonderfully odd comic performances, but if I have a complaint about the cast it is that it is too large. The ensemble has swelled to include Ricky Gervais and Sandra Oh both good performers, both kind of wasted in throw-away roles. Gervais is one of the funniest actors working today but you wouldn’t know it from his performance here.
For Your Consideration is a clever—I liked Harry Shearer’s line, “Oscar is the backbone of this industry, an industry not known for backbone.”—and fairly realistic look at life on the fringes of success, but it doesn’t deliver the boffo laughs of some of Guest’s other work.