L.A. Story

 

For Your Consideration pulls 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. Embellished with anachronisms, affectations, improvisational asides and verbal non sequiturs, 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 Purim when a blogger forecasts Oscar consideration for leading lady Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara). As the hype metastasizes to include her co-stars, the famed hot dog spokesman Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer) and 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. Written by Lane Iverson (Michael McKean) and Philip Koontz (Bob Balaban) and 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 Georgia Jews rallies around its dying matriarch, jabbering in drawled Yiddish.

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.” All of Guest’s films have their designated scene stealer, and here it’s Higgins, whose daffy flack adds much to the film’s off-kilter hilarity as well as to its mannered fustiness.

By infusing his antiquated sympathies into au courant Hollywood, Guest risks a disconnect in the material; imagine The Player and A Prairie Home Companion done as one film. But it’s exactly that tension that lends Consideration a more memorable texture than something like The Big Picture, Guest’s 1989 directorial debut about the odyssey of a naïve filmmaker through 1980s Hollywood.

The movie doesn’t lack for topical zingers. The Charlie Rose Show receives its definitive mocking, and grubbier celebrity parasites are squashed to death. As Chuck Porter, the meathead co-host of TV tabloid Hollywood Now, Fred Willard exudes 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’s perspective. A less selfish movie about egotism is hard to imagine. Credit the cast as much as the concept. They keep the material from descending into grotesquerie because they know its secret: Hoopla in Hollywood isn’t the real subject here, merely the pretext for another oddball ode to lovable losers.

Categories: Movies