3 stars (out of four)
Having demolished, sweetly, everything from heavy metal ("This Is Spinal Tap," directed by Rob Reiner) to small-town theatrics ("Waiting for Guffman"), dog shows ("Best in Show") and folkies ("A Mighty Wind"), Christopher Guest and his associates submit themselves to Oscar lust in the ensemble comedy "For Your Consideration." True to form, Guest's newest doesn't pull out the long knives. On the gentleness scale, this one's way over here, as opposed to the film of the moment, "Borat," which is way, way over there.
Does "For Your Consideration" scale the peaks of "Best in Show?" No. Not every film can have Jennifer Coolidge telling the camera that she and her decrepit husband's shared interests include soup. But enough happens in show business margins of the Hollywood milieu depicted in "For Your Consideration," in which Coolidge shows up as a bubbleheaded producer, to make up for a somewhat soft center.
Like its precedents, the new film chronicles a passionate group of dreamers whose lives are spent just east of the limelight. Unlike "Guffman," "Show" and "Wind," this one is not a fake documentary. Catherine O'Hara leads the way. The once-and-forever "SCTV" alum, who long ago played Elke Sommer in an amazing parody of "The Oscar," portrays Marilyn Hack, an insecure actress of a certain age. She's first glimpsed at home in front of the TV, mouthing Bette Davis' lines from "Jezebel." Her latest job is a role in a low-budget independent picture being released by Sunfish Classics, a 1940s-set Southern Jewish drama called "Home for Purim."
On the set one day, Marilyn hears she has been mentioned on a Web site as a probable Oscar nominee in the making. Soon she can think of nothing else. One of her "Purim" co-stars, sometime hot dog pitchman Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer, with monstrous fake white teeth), generates his own Oscar buzz. Then the word on the street -- a very slippery street indeed -- has the gold guy going to the ingenue played by Parker Posey.
With frizzed-out hair modeled on every third Algonquin Round Table regular, director and co-writer Guest is Jay Berman, the "Purim" director more interested in close-ups of the kugel than in the material itself. Eugene Levy, who co-wrote "For Your Consideration" with Guest, plays Morley Orfkin, agent to the not-quite-stars and Miller's alleged advocate. Levy has handled these types before, but nobody handles them better.
If "For Your Consideration" requires a certain amount of forgiveness, it's because awards-show obsessives have been sent through the wringer before. When it sets its sights on the outer ring of media barnacles who stoke all the Oscar blather, as opposed to the actors themselves, Guest's picture jumps up to a higher satiric level. Fred Willard and Jane Lynch play co-hosts of an "Entertainment Tonight"-type TV show, and the way Willard's mohawk squares off against Lynch's Xena-like warrior stance is a sight to behold. Riffing on William H. Macy's hyper-crisp diction, John Michael Higgins plays a publicist who isn't yet up to speed on this new thing called "the inter-web" and who believes that inside every actor lies "a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightingale."
As swell as O'Hara is, "For Your Consideration" relies awfully heavily on the pathos of Marilyn's Oscar hopes, as well as the tragedy of elective surgery that leaves a 50ish dame looking like Conrad Veidt in "The Man Who Laughs." (It's even more remarkable when you realize O'Hara achieved her character's new look without the usual latex add-ons.) Still, felicities abound. Watch for Michael McKean, playing the co-author of "Home for Purim," trying to get a word in edgewise when being interviewed by a Charlie Rose-type buttinsky. And in a parody of "Ebert & Roeper," here called "Love It/Hate It," Don Lake plays the co-host who says things like: "Well, I see a lot of films ... I love all of them. ..." Such details can only come from genuine comic talents, working a room they know very, very well.
'For Your Consideration'
Directed by Christopher Guest; screenplay by Guest and Eugene Levy; cinematography by Roberto Schaefer; edited by Robert Leighton; production design by Joseph T. Garrity; music by CJ Vanston; produced by Karen Murphy. A Warner Independent Pictures release. Running time: 1:26. MPAA rating: PG-13 (sexual references and brief language).
Marilyn Hack --Catherine O'Hara
Jay Berman -- Christopher Guest
Victor Allan Miller -- Harry Shearer
Callie Webb -- Parker Posey
Chuck Porter -- Fred Willard
Cindy Martin -- Jane Lynch
Morley Orfkin -- Eugene Levy
Whitney Taylor Brown -- Jennifer CoolidgeCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times