The formidable, in size and in talent, cast of For Your Consideration is stretched 10 people wide across a Toronto hotel room. It is headed, as it should be, by Christopher Guest and his co-conspirator/writer Eugene Levy, followed by Catherine O’Hara, Simpsons regular Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge (AKA Stifler’s Mom) and, practically obscured by a plant on the right of the dais, Bob Balaban.
This press conference plays like a scene from any of Guest’s cult comedies such as Waiting for Guffman or Best in Show, quickly and with wit, losing and regaining direction.
“There are people like this that exist in this particular industry,” Levy is saying of the new film, which focuses on the shadier parts of the film business. (He plays a low-rent agent himself.)
“You think?” says Guest.
“I would go out on a limb and hazard a guess that there are,” says Levy. “I was watching TV the other night and a show came on called Nosedive. And that show is about the people in this business whose careers have taken a dive for whatever reason.”
A loud, disgusted groan crests its way down the assembled actors.
“Who’s responsible?” O’Hara mock-demands.
“The episode I actually saw was about George Michael,” says Levy. “And the people that put this show together…”
“That’s not precisely a nosedive though,” Shearer interrupts.
A different kind of groan ripples through the group.
Levy gives up on the example. “There’s elements of this industry,” he says sagely, almost redundantly, “that are not very pleasant.”
For Your Consideration—not told in the traditional Guest style of mockumentary, though he hates that term, preferring “documentary format”—follows the production of a film called Home for Purim, a fairly terrible drama set in the 1950s about a woman (Posey) returning home after a long estrangement from her mother (O’Hara), who’s dying. She’s also gay and has her girlfriend in tow, much to her parents’ oblivion. Then O’Hara, playing washed-up actor Marilyn Hack, gets a call that a movie blog implied her work on the film is so good she might get an Oscar nomination, and that news rips through the production and turns the movie into a mainstream family comedy called Home for Thanksgiving.
Coolidge plays the film’s producer, who won’t let the making-of DVD crew film her from behind, Lynch and Willard are Mary Hart and Ryan Seacrest-types hosting an infotainment show, Balaban and McKean are the partners/screenwriters and Shearer is Victor Allan Miller, the equally washed-up co-star of Purim who also drums up some Oscar buzz. As the stars start to believe their own ridiculous hype, relationships get ruined, parts get written and lips get Botoxed. It’s so straight-faced that Hollywood may not even get the joke.
“I did many years at the Groundlings,” says Coolidge of the famous LA comedy troupe, “had a bunch of really bad employers and just took monologues of things people have said to me and just put them on stage and people have been in the audience and have come up to me and told me how much they love the piece. People usually have no idea who they are or what they say. And they don’t ever remember saying these things to you. I’ve never been accused of ‘doing someone.’”
And then there’s that title—“For Your Consideration” is the standard sell planted across awards advertisements in film trade publications like Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, i.e. “For Your Consideration, Will Ferrell, Best Actor, Stranger Than Fiction” over a never-before-seen production still.
“I remember it in the early ’80s, which is when the first serious flurry of trade ads began,” says McKean. “And it was some disasterous movie that no one liked and didn’t make any money, but it was this huge double-page ad in Variety: For Your Consideration. It’s like yeah, good luck. But that’s when everyone started using it.”
As for the film’s own potential Oscar campaign this year, “We’ll have free advertising unless someone changes the expression,” says O’Hara.
“‘For the hell of it,’” says Shearer.
“‘For my ego,’” says Guest.
“‘For the sake of your continued employment at this studio,’” says McKean.
For Your Consideration opens Friday, November 24.