By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 17, 2006; C04
Since directing "Waiting for Guffman" in 1996 and following up with "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind," Christopher Guest has become a cherished and reliable source of observant and screamingly funny mock-documentaries. Working with an outstanding band of repertory players -- co-writer Eugene Levy, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Parker Posey and Catherine O'Hara, among others -- Guest has become the master of the form, providing his actors with a few notes and letting them rip with improvisatory brilliance.
So it is with a heightened sense of anticipation that Guest's rabid cult of fans greets "For Your Consideration," wherein he turns his gimlet eye on Hollywood. Maybe it's because he's working so close to home, or that the home has been so well ransacked (from "Sunset Boulevard" and "The Player" to "Entourage" and Jiminy Glick) that "For Your Consideration" doesn't deliver the usual Guest goods: biting satire annealed by an overriding spirit of humanism. Here, the filmmaker betrays a biliousness that never surfaced in his earlier work, and the effect isn't pretty.
"For Your Consideration" chronicles the production of "Home for Purim," a little independent picture starring an ensemble of has-beens and unknowns that looks to be heading straight to video until a Web site announces that its aging lead actress, Marilyn Hack (O'Hara), may be nominated for an Oscar. Suddenly, the cast and crew of "Home for Purim" -- which looks Tennessee Williams by way of Neil Simon -- are thrust into the marketing maw, where they are ritually masticated and spit out.
For the first two acts, "For Your Consideration" rolls along in usual Guest fashion, with hilarious characterizations and subtle, spontaneous zingers. With his capped teeth and penciled mustache, Shearer's vain lead actor, Victor Allan Miller, keeps toggling between bad Southern and Yiddish accents, and John Michael Higgins and Jennifer Coolidge deliver their usual scene-stealing supporting performances, as a clueless publicist and idiotic producer, respectively. (Higgins might have the film's best line: "In every actor there lives a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightingale.")
But things turn sour during the film's weirdly perfunctory conclusion, when the wages of overweening ego, self-deception and ambition come due. The laughs disappear for good when Fred Willard, as an obnoxious entertainment journalist, revels in the broken dreams of his subjects. Luckily, Guest has already made this movie: "The Big Picture," his charming 1989 feature debut starring Kevin Bacon as an aspiring director. Anyone who needs their Guest fix this weekend is advised to rent it, and begin getting their hopes up for the next one.
For Your Consideration (86 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for sexual references and brief profanity.