This One Goes to Eleven

For Your Consideration
Dir. Christopher Guest; writ. Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy; feat. Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, John Michael Higgins, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, Ricky Gervais, Rachael Harris, Ed Begley Jr., Larry Miller, Carrie Aizley, Sandra Oh, Richard Kind (PG-13)
I'd like to draw your attention, if I might, to the neat constellation of smallish, italicized text floating directly to the right of this column. See that? That little bastard, right there, took me upwards of 15 minutes to assemble. (Well, wait. Not quite as it appears now, as you're reading it - I didn't do that. That little dilly was formatted by our tortured-genius editorial designer, Chuck, and our mad web scientist, Kevin, and I'm sure it didn't take 'em 15 minutes; dudes'r faster'n the times at Ridgemont High, God bless 'em. I'm talking about selecting and arranging the elements in that `very` abridged cast-and-crew list, which I did just prior to now, when I'm writing it.) (That's right, I'm writing to you from the past, across the sands of time. Do take care that your head doesn't explode.) With most films, there're generally only about three to seven notables in the cast, and the task is fairly open-and-shut. Not so, frequently and notably, with the work of three directors: Woody Allen, Robert Altman, and, perhaps most consistently, Christopher Guest.

The Guest canon is inhabited by such a by-now familiar (and expanding) repertory company that the attempt to whittle the "main" cast for each film down to under double figures proves a exasperating, downright irrational one - particularly as the films have had more a history of creating stars than courting them. Thing is, just about every player has something worthwhile to offer, but each shares the spotlight almost too well; this "talent glut," as it were, is one of the few minor complaints I can muster about For Your Consideration, which includes some of the freshest, funniest work I've seen from Guest and company since Guffman.

The premise, as usual, is comparably simple: On the set of the in-progress indie-film-within-an-indie-mock-a-doc Home for Purim, three actors catch wind of Oscar rumors for each of their performances, and all manner of (improvised) lunacy breaks out. Consideration marks Guest's first (rather shrewd) break from the per se, interviews-and-outsider-footage documentary formula, which he eschews in favor of a decidely documentary-style narrative, shaking up the proceedings just enough without straying far from a familiar and beloved format. The film also benefits from a smattering of talented new blood - including Ricky Gervais of The Office (UK) and a handful of cameos - that cohabitates smoothly with the more seasoned alumni; the regulars, of course, are right at home, and palpably enjoying themselves. As Marilyn Hack, Purim's lead actress, the always winning Catherine O'Hara gives the film its tragicomic heart, going from endearingly clueless to obsessive to downright horror-movie terrifying (aided by of one of the best, most harrowing makeup jobs I've ever seen). Parker Posey, who can spout and sell gibberish with the best of 'em, is as gleefully deadpan and committed as ever as a fellow nominee; she manages a heartbreaking earnest bit, as well. Guest, who never ceases to impress, takes a smaller role but positively nails it, disappearing absolutely into a subdued Woody Allen/Paul Reiser mesh of a director who's great fun to watch. FYC also memorably skewers the media, from critics (ahem) to Charlie Rose to TRL: A fauxhawked Fred Willard pairs with Jane Lynch's occasionally dead-on Mary Hart send-up for an Entertainment Tonight ribbing that hits more often than not; Carrie Aizley scores belly laughs as a spacey interviewer. Memorable also are Jennifer Coolidge as a Melanie Griffith-esque producer, McKean and Balaban as writers, and Rachael Harris as an all-business Method practitioner. And others, which space excludes from mention.

And really, that's the only regret. A few of the jokes come off as canned, a few of the targeted clichés have been too well worked over; there are plenty, however, that don't. The biggest problem seems to be unavoidable: In the interest of keeping the film under a fortnight, cuts are made, and talents like Larry Miller seem to go to waste. But then, that's why there's DVD.

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