Christopher Guest‘s For Your Consideration (Warner Independent, 11.17), which I saw two or three days ago, is a low-budget ensemble satire about how Oscar-nomination fever belittles and humiliates would-be nominees (and actors in particular). I chuckled here and there (just like I chuckled at A Mighty Wind and Best in Show — Guest’s comedies never really make me quake with laughter), but Consideration feels lazy and second-tier-ish at every turn. Everything feels whimsical, smug, underdeveloped.
To laugh at satire you have to half-believe in the reality of the piece in order to suspend disbelief. But everything about this film feels strained, hokey, small-timey. A single internet rumor about a middle-aged actress’s (Catherine O’Hara) supposedly quality-level performance in a flat-footed period drama triggers a torrent of interest, traction and hype — and not just about O’Hara but her costars (Parker Posey, Harry Shearer), the sum of which stirs dreams of greater glory and re-energized careers.
I get the notion that Guest’s humor is always framed in mock-ironic quotes. What I don’t understand and find frustrating is why it’s so hard for him to create semi-believable plot lines, textures and details that help sourpusses like myself to get into the mood.
At best For Your Consideration is sporadically amusing — I’m amazed that people are calling it “hilarious,” “inventive,” “on-target”, etc. It’s really not any of these things, or at least not consistently. Guest’s The Big Picture, his other Hollywood-expose film that opened 17 years ago, was much more incisive.
It seems as if Guest has gotten caught up in making movies for the Chris Guest players — Ed Begley, Jr., Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, O’Hara, Posey, Shearer, Fred Willard , et. al. — and is so enjoying the making of these films and is sufficiently content with the amount of money they’re making that he’s just not trying all that hard.
I realize there are a lot of viewers and readers who think Guest’s material is drop-dead hilarious. (A lot of them went after me when I shrugged at A Mighty Wind.) I don’t want to see the Guest juggernaut go bust — I’m glad there’s a significant-sized audience that likes his films. I just wish he’d sweat a bit more when he writes and shoots them.