Ten years into a collaboration that has produced the mockumentaries “Waiting for Guffman,” “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind,” Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy shed the gimmick in the almost surreally fast-paced laffer “For Your Consideration.” The story of a “prestige” film comically roiled by kudos buzz, “Consideration” is too heavy on ethnic humor and industry in-jokes to attract many in flyover territory. But it will garner critical huzzahs from those it lampoons, which will broaden the duo’s fan base in theatrical and fiercely cultish ancillary.
Warner Independent Pictures plans a Nov. 17 rollout in some 40 U.S. markets, expanding the run a week later, aiming to capitalize, no doubt, on holiday buzz for awards season.
Wisely abandoning the mockumentary approach they’d taken about as far as it could go, Guest and Levy have expanded their rep company of players and utilized an obviously larger budget to widen the net of their cultural satire in snugly cut narrative form. Crucially, they’ve preserved an anarchic, zinger-fueled wit that works chiefly because they continue to simultaneously embrace and condemn the cruel superficiality of their self-absorbed losers.
Though she’s endured the business for more than three decades, actress Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara) still isn’t recognized when she drives up to the front gates of the studio. She’s there starring as a dying Southern matriarch in a low-budget drama called “Home for Purim” opposite Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer), who sees the role as a chance to escape his typecasting as Irv the Footlong Weiner in tube spots.
The crew of “Home for Purim” and the industry hangers-on are about par for the Tinseltown course: insecure, suspicious tonsorial train wrecks with laughably trendy wardrobes. There’s the relentlessly cheery makeup guy (Ed Begley Jr.); Miller’s distracted agent (Levy); a non-sequitur-spouting publicist (John Michael Higgins); the bland, middle-aged helmer (Guest); the EPK producer (Carrie Aizley); a breathtakingly dim producer (Jennifer Coolidge); and the mismatched screenwriting duo (Bob Balaban, Michael McKean).
One day on the set, Brit d.p. (Jim Piddock) lets slip to Marilyn that an Internet site has speculated her perf may be worthy of that little gold statue. She soon tells Miller, as well as co-stars (Parker Posey, Christopher Moynihan, Rachael Harris), the last a humorless Method type.
Soon the rumor has leaked to a series of contempo entertainment programs, caricatured with spot-on precision. Chief among them is “Entertainment Now,” co-hosted by terminally perky and sharp-tongued duo (Jane Lynch and Fred Willard, here sporting a fluffy blond Mohawk).
The media buzz, in turn, attracts the attention of smarmy Sunfish Classics prez Martin Gibb (Ricky Gervais) and his jumpy assistant (Larry Miller), whose boutique distrib is interested in acquiring the film — with maybe just a few script changes. Renamed “Home for Thanksgiving,” pic gets raves from a pair of bickering tube crix (Don Lake, Michael Hitchcock). Can the coveted noms be far behind?
Of course, “Home for Purim” is terrible — and nobody really seems to care, or even notice. As with the small-town theater company in “Guffman,” even the hint of validation is enough to spur on these oddballs.
Entire company is in top form. Rep company newcomer Gervais has a priceless few moments discussing restaurants with Coolidge, while Shearer’s character sums up the pic’s main theme: “Oscar is the backbone of this industry, an industry not known for backbone.”
Little-known thesps Deborah Theaker and Scott Williamson, who between them have been in almost all of Guest’s directorial efforts, are given incrementally larger roles here as Marilyn’s pal and a morning talkshow host, respectively.
If there’s a whisper of disappointment, it’s in the promise of O’Hara’s touchingly conflicted Marilyn. The role feels underwritten — particularly as O’Hara cedes face time to a huge supporting cast that includes various thesps doing one-off-cameos as themselves.
Tech package is marked by a TV-like glare, which also is spoofed by Guest: Asked for more light on the set, Piddock’s lenser complains, “It’s brighter than Stephen Hawking in here.”