"For Your Consideration" is, except for "Borat," the funniest film of the year. Or, it's the funniest film that you don't have to watch through parted fingers.
Director/co-writer/actor Christopher Guest extends his perfect streak. "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show," and "A Mighty Wind" all featured Guest's peerless stock company of improvisers in mockumentaries about, respectively, small-town theater, dog shows, and folk music.
"For Your Consideration" is not a mockumentary, but there is much in it that is mocking. It's about a troupe of minor Hollywood players who buy into Internet rumors that they are Oscar contenders. As the film illustrates, there is nothing as fatuous as an actor with delusions of grandeur.
The film they're making is called "Home for Purim," a straight-faced, low-budget Southern drama featuring Catherine O'Hara as the actress Marilyn Hack, who plays a dying matriarch with a penchant for wide-eyed histrionics. When word reaches her about her Oscar buzz, she eases into diva mode.
To her chagrin, the buzz also begins for her costars, including Parker Posey as her errant daughter in "Purim" and, as her husband in the movie-within-a-movie, Harry Shearer, who hopes his newfound prominence will erase people's memories of him as TV pitchman Irv the Footlong Weiner. The buzz brings an offer from a sleazy distributor on the condition that the Jewish holiday of Purim be changed to Thanksgiving. By this point, the cast will do whatever it takes.
Guest, who plays the fluffy-haired director of "Home for Purim," and his co-writer Eugene Levy, who gives a definitive slimeball agent performance, sketched in the scenes, and then let the cast create their own material. They are so in tune with each other's comic rhythms that, at times, the film has the feel of a great jazz session. Jane Lynch and Fred Willard, sporting a blond mohawk cut, are particularly good riffing off each other as co-hosts for "Entertainment Now." And there are some classic lines, such as the reaction of the British cinematographer to the overlit set of "Purim": "It's brighter than Stephen Hawking in here."
Are the targets too easy a mark? Perhaps, but if it's so easy to skewer the movie business, why have there been so few good Hollywood satires? (One of the best was a 1989 Guest film, "The Big Picture," with Martin Short as an agent who couldn't look in his rear-view mirror without admiring his facade).
As in Guest's other comedies, there are moments when, against all odds, a genuine pathos breaks through. This was certainly true in the scenes between O'Hara and Levy, as two old folkies, in "A Mighty Wind." It's true again with O'Hara in this film. When Marilyn realizes her glory days may be gone, not only is she funny – she's touching, too. Marilyn may not rate an Oscar nomination, but O'Hara certainly does. Grade: A
• Rated PG-13 for sexual references and brief language.
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 1 strong and 11 milder profanities. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 4 scenes with drinking.