Christopher Guest may well never make another movie as perfect as 2003's A Mighty Wind, simply because on that film, he had the perfect subject and perspective. His previous faux-documentaries (Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show) used similar tacks in observing the laughable behavior of insular groups, but A Mighty Wind was unique, in that its characters—professional folksingers and their associates—were actually producing catchy, compelling art. And Guest's folkie background came in handy in providing satirical angles and in developing his most human and empathetic characters to date.
His latest, For Your Consideration, should come from a similar familiarity; it follows a group of filmmakers and associated professionals through the making of a movie and the minor Oscar buzz that follows. Surely, as a filmmaker himself, Guest should know what he's talking about. But much of For Your Consideration feels shrill and off-base, like it's working too hard and reaching too far. That sense begins with the film-within-a-film, a horrid, histrionic melodrama called Home For Purim, starring Catherine O'Hara as an ailing mother hoping for a visit from estranged daughter Parker Posey. When O'Hara learns that some random website has declared her Academy Award material, Oscar fever sweeps the set, with all her D-list co-stars hoping the film is their ticket to better things.
For Your Consideration drops Guest's customary documentary format, but his new narrative structure feels very similar. He's still working with his usual repertory cast, still letting them improv the film within a plot framework he and Eugene Levy provide, and still bouncing around Robert Altman-style, providing an industry overview instead of a single focused story. A thoroughly enjoyable class-reunion vibe reigns as his regulars pop up one by one, including Fred Willard and Jane Lynch as the hosts of a gushy Entertainment Tonight-like infotainment show, Don Lake and Michael Hitchcock as film critics, and Levy as a glad-handing agent. But Hollywood is too broad a topic for Guest's small-world focus, and portraying it as the exclusive domain of blinkered imbeciles also means losing satirical focus, not to mention any sense of reality or specificity. Guest's cast is talented and their jabs are hit-and-miss fun, but their comedy can be embarrassingly broad, and even Hollywood haters have to admit that few theatrical films (or national TV shows) are as tacky and overblown as absolutely everything seen here. Hollywood features can be hellish, but in Guest's view, they're no different from Waiting For Guffman's community-theater productions, and that's just an impossible message to swallow.