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|For Your Consideration|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Christopher Guest|
scr Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
with Catherine O'Hara, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Christopher Guest, Jennifer Coolidge, Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, Christopher Moynihan, Rachael Harris, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Ricky Gervais, Larry Miller, Ed Begley Jr
release US 17.Nov.06, UK 9.Feb.07
06/US Warner 1h26
Home for Thanksgiving: Moynihan, Shearer, O'Hara and Posey
Guest and his ensemble shift gears for a proper narrative comedy, rather than the usual mock-doc. Although it features the same improv-style hilarity, it feels like a more serious Hollywood satire.
Marilyn Hack (O'Hara) and Victor Allan Miller (Shearer) are veteran actors who never quite hit the big time. They're shooting the low-budget melodrama Home for Purim with up-and-coming young actors (Posey, Moynihan and Harris) when internet buzz starts mentioning them as possible Oscar nominees. Suddenly the entire film set is alight with possibility, gossip journalists are chattering, and a studio boss (Gervais) informs the writers (McKean and Balaban) that they need to make the film less Jewish so it'll appeal to a wider audience.
Despite its gentle tone, this is a razor-sharp take on every level of moviemaking, especially where it collides with the self-important awards season. The dialog is laced with outrageous gags ("Inside every actor is a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightingale, and you never know which will show up"), all delivered in such a bone-dry style that at times we forget this is a comedy.
This low-key approach means the movie isn't as funny as it could be. And there are other problems, as the characters lack any sense of depth or history, the blend of absurdly silly and fiercely intelligent comedy is sometimes somewhat awkward, and the plot is lacking several key punchlines (including an ending). On the other hand, the performances are fabulous.
O'Hara deserves a real Oscar nomination for this role, as she confronts the Hollywood treatment of middle-aged actresses with both raucous comedy and telling emotion. Posey has some remarkable scenes as well, plus genuine chemistry with Moynihan. The funniest performances come from Coolidge (the vain producer), Higgins (a blathering publicist), Guest (the literally fuzzy-headed director) and, most hysterically, Willard and Lynch (as ratings-grubbing TV presenters).
There's more than enough sharply clever stuff here, but it feels thinly spread. With another 15 minutes or so, Guest could have deepened the characters and offered even better payoffs to astute gags aimed at such a wide variety of deserving targets. But it's in O'Hara's expressive eyes that the film ultimately wins us over.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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