L.A. Story

Hooray for Christopher Guest's Hollywood, where Purim gets Oscar buzz and Charlie Rose his due

For Your Considerationpulls off the neat trick of skewering the movie industry while remaking it in its own image. The latest ensemble comedy by Christopher Guest and company may take place in Los Angeles, but its imaginative provenance lies somewhere between the la-la lands of Entourage and Mulholland Dr. It's as weird and whimsical an invention as Guest's Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, or A Mighty Wind.

The scenario is more or less anchored in reality, or at least what passes for it in Hollywood. Anxiety mounts for cast and crew on the indie production Home for Purimwhen a blogger forecasts Oscar consideration for leading lady Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara). As the hype metastasizes to include her co-star, the famed hot-dog spokesman Victor Allen Miller (Harry Shearer), as well as supporting beauty Callie Webb (Parker Posey), a story for the media, if not a star for the ages, is born.

All of which would be perfectly reasonable if Home for Purim weren't utterly ridiculous. Directed by neophyte nebbish Jay Berman (Christopher Guest), it revives some forgotten mode of hysterical melodrama without a trace of irony or competence. Home for the holidays, a preposterous clan of Georgian Jews—we're talking Dixieland here, not Eurasia—rally around their dying matriarch. It's the sort of film where a lady about to swoon first puts a wrist to her forehead.

But where are the hamantaschen?
photo: Shangri-La Entertainment
But where are the hamantaschen?

Elsewhere on the set, producer Whitney Taylor Brown (Jennifer Coolidge), heiress of the Brown diaper fortune, struggles with polysyllabic words; bumbling agent Morley Orfkin (Eugene Levy) gobbles down bagels; and unit publicist Corey Taft (John Michael Higgins) calls for the marketing campaign to be "timely, quantifiable, and orotund." Corey's ignorance of the "Interweb" is typical of the way the Hollywood of Consideration often seems as outdated as the Georgia of Purim.

Guest's movies revel in marginal cultures and obsolete sensibilities, whether it's the podunk thespians of Waiting for Guffman or the dog nerds of Best in Show. By infusing his antiquated sympathies into au courant Hollywood, he risks a disconnect in the material. But it's exactly that tension, a bristle of styles, that lends Consideration a more memorable texture than Guest's prior foray into Hollywood satire, 1989's The Big Picture.

The movie doesn't lack for topical zingers. The Charlie Rose Show receives its definitive mocking, and, as Chuck Porter, meathead co-host of TV tabloid Hollywood Now, Fred Willard is done up with faux-hawk, diamond earring, hot-pink tie, and the pathetic exuberance of a professional ass kisser. Yet in an amusing send-up of an Ebert & Roeper–style duo, the best bit isn't the squabbling personalities or blurb-whoring inanity, but a tossed-off quip, barely overheard as the scene fades out: "This film reminds me of your wife and her ceramic turtle collection."

Lines like that (the screenplay is by Guest and Levy) go to the heart of Consideration, a movie about insiders from an outsider perspective. Hoopla in Hollywood isn't the real subject here, merely the pretext for another oddball ode to lovable losers.

 
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