Director Christopher Guest and his co-writer, Eugene Levy, break from the mockumentary form of Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show and A Mighty Wind, but the hilariously twisted For Your Consideration is no less time-capsule-worthy. Catherine O'Hara is comic perfection as Marilyn Hack, an actress happily working on the Hollywood fringes until some Internet geek visits the set of her cheapie period film, Home for Purim, and starts Oscar buzz for her role as a dying Jewish mother from the Deep South. The buzz nearly destroys Marilyn, turning her from a committed thespian into a surgically enhanced talk-show whore driven to win. Not to jinx her, but O'Hara deserves Oscar consideration in her funniest, fiercest role.
All the actors shine, including Guest as the TV-trained director with no patience for the Purim cast, none of whom impress as remotely Southern or Jewish. "It's a dang mitzvah!" says Harry Shearer, playing Marilyn's husband in Purim but really a washed-up hack known for dressing up as a wiener on TV commercials. It is a dang pleasure having Parker Posey around as a stand-up comic whose one-woman show, titled "No Penis Intended," makes her a natural for the role of the lesbian daughter in Purim, though she is screwing the actor (Christopher Moynihan) who plays her brother in Purim. Got that? It doesn't matter, really, just giggle and give in.
And how do you not with these zanies? Ricky Gervais - he of the shark smile and biting wit - joins the Guest list as the studio boss who tells Purim's screenwriters (Michael McKean and Bob Balaban, a master of deadpan dismay) to make the film more commercial by making it less Jewish. Fred Willard and Jane Lynch are laugh riots as demented TV hosts, who make their Oscar predictions wearing turbans and gazing into a crystal ball. And topping Levy's own portrait of smarm incarnate in the role of - what else? - a Hollywood agent is John Michael Higgins as a publicist who insists that "inside every actor lives a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightingale, and you never know which one's gonna show up." Don't try to figure it out. And don't worry if the laughs stick in your throat when you think about them later. That's the point of satire, even one masquerading as farce. Guest and Levy stick it good to the dark heart of showbiz, daring to suggest that the Oscar fever on which Hollywood thrives is a sickness of the soul.