[Screen It]

(2006) (Catherine O'Hara, Harry Shearer) (PG-13)

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Comedy: People involved in the making of and reporting on a holiday movie react to news that some of the performers in it might receive award nominations, all while dealing with studio changes to the film to make it more commercial.
For those on the set of the holiday movie "Home For Purim," the chance to appear in the film has different meanings. Aging veteran actress Marilyn Hack (CATHERINE O'HARA) sees it as an opportunity to show off her acting skills, with makeup artist and hair stylist Sandy Lane (ED BEGLEY JR.) agreeing, while her veteran co-star, Victor Allan Miller (HARRY SHEARER), thinks he should be getting more parts, a point his agent, Morley Orfkin (EUGENE LEVY) tries to smooth over.

Then there are young lovers Callie Webb (PARKER POSEY) and Brian Chubb (CHRISTOPHER MOYNIHAN) who are happy to be working together, even if they're playing siblings in the film where her character brings home a lesbian lover -- played by intense actress Debbie Gilchrist (RACHAEL HARRIS) -- for the Jewish holiday.

While flighty producer Whitney Taylor Brown (JENNIFER COOLIDGE) is on the set but unsure of what's occurring, unlike cinematographer Simon Whitset (JIM PIDDOCK), publicist Corey Taft (JOHN MICHAEL HIGGINS) is trying to get word out about the film. At the same time, studio executive Martin Gibb (RICKY GERVAIS) tries to convince the director, Jay Berman (CHRISTOPHER GUEST), to make the film more commercially appealing -- meaning jettisoning most of the Jewish elements -- a request that doesn't set well with the writers, Philip Koontz (BOB BALABAN) and Lane Iverson (MICHAEL MCKEAN).

However, things change when rumor spreads on the Internet that Marilyn might earn award nominations for her work, a story reported by Chuck Porter (FRED WILLARD) and Cindy Martin (JANE LYNCH), anchors for the entertainment news program, "Hollywood Now." From that point on, and as the film gains traction in the trades and is finally released, those associated with it eagerly await awards season time.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
There's the old saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Beyond directly applying to lumberjacks (who, according to Monty Python, like to press wild flowers, put on women's clothing and hang around in bars), it's obviously a metaphor for being so immersed in something and its details that you can't see the overall picture.

Besides those of the palm variety, there aren't a lot of trees in Hollywood, but there's certainly lots of material related to movies and moviemaking. And a complaint often leveled against those who make most pics is that they've become so insulated in their moviemaking world that they've lost touch with the rest of reality.

Since mockumentary filmmaker Christopher Guest and his merry crew usually work outside of the inner workings of traditional Hollywood, I don't think that belief can apply to them. From "A Mighty Wind" to "Best in Show" to "Waiting for Guffman," they've lovingly poked fun at various events and the people involved in them, always with a fresh, outsiders viewpoint that has usually served them well and generally evoked positive remarks from both reviewers and art house aficionados.

For their latest effort, however, I think the fact that they're so ensconced in moviemaking -- which, in theory, should be a plus here -- proves to be their undoing. With "For Your Consideration," they've decided to poke fun at the world in which they live and breath, and the results aren't as creative or hilarious as in the past, probably because all of those proverbial trees are in the way (although, interestingly enough, Guest has already waded into these waters before with his first feature, "The Big Picture").

While I haven't done an exact head count, it does appear that most of Guest's regulars are on hand, again doing their not quite caricature type performances. The result somewhat feels like a welcome cinematic reunion among them and those of us who've always enjoyed their company, but this gathering oddly doesn't feel as entertaining as in times past.

In the film, Catherine O'Hara, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, and sophomore Guest player Christopher Moynihan play actors appearing in a melodramatic holiday film, "Home for Purim." The fun and laughs are supposed to come from them embodying performers who don't seem to realize or care that they're in some melodramatic schlock, much like those playing the various crew members and such (including Guest as, natch, the director).

Some of that humor's present, but it feels tepid at best, as if they didn't really want to go full-bore for the jugular and bring down their target. Of course, some of that stems from the point that the target is themselves and their industry, so perhaps they pulled up some, but the result isn't as imaginative or hilarious as one would hope and expect from this crew.

The same holds true for those who are outside the industry but peering within it, including two reviewers appearing in a critique show called "Love It/Hate It" (where, not surprisingly considering the title, one is enthusiastic about every release unlike his more negative counterpart). The meatier part, however, goes to Fred Willard who plays the co-host of one of those "Access Hollywood" type entertainment "news" shows that have since morphed into just another Hollywood appendage, what with their gushing interviews and such. The point is obvious -- that such shows and those on them want to be part of the entertainment industry rather than just cover it -- but the resultant laughs are lacking.

However, Guest and company miss the boat the most with their languid look at Hollywood come awards season (hence the title). Those in and who report on the industry know to what lengths the studios and talent agencies will go in trying to promote their films and clients for nominations and wins (often spending more money doing that then what the typical Guest film costs).

While there's some brief, petty behavior among the performers in the film as they react to rumors about such potential nominations, the filmmaker drops the ball when demonstrating that such overall behavior proves that moviemaking is more about the bottom line and egos than artistry. Who knows if Guest was worried about how such satire might affect this or subsequent films in such regards, or whether the film simply ran out of time for such coverage (it clocks in at a scant 80-plus minutes), but a golden opportunity for some seriously funny mockery is clearly missed.

That short running time and the sheer number of characters certainly shortchange most of the performers in terms of fleshing out their characters. While their portrayals have their share of amusing characteristics, only a few (especially Shearer) feel as rich as in Guest's past releases.

And that also holds true for the overall film. While certainly not a travesty, it nonetheless feels weak compared to its predecessors that apparently didn't have to worry about all of those cinematic trees getting in the way of some heavily-forested comedy. "For Your Consideration" rates as a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed October 23, 2006 / Posted November 22, 2006

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