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November 15-21, 2006

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'For Your Consideration'

Say cheeser: Fading star Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara) promos her indie hit with Harry Shearer in 'For Your Consideration.'

Oscar Wieners

The Oscar buzz stings the cast and crew of an indie film in hilarious 'For Your Consideration'

By Richard von Busack

AMONG Catherine O'Hara's many acting specialties is "the cheeser," meaning an out-of-control, foaming and usually inebriated woman. (The word comes from Dave Thomas' history of the priceless, the berserk, the never-to-be-forgotten SCTV.) Nobody talks about desert-island comedy moments, but for your consideration: O'Hara's cheeser Lola Heatherton on SCTV—an over-amphetamined chanteuse having a titanic moment of self-revelation in front of her audience. The number is shot in the then-fashionable mode of two video cameras, so that different sides of her melting-down face dissolve into one another. We get double-views of a madwoman-singer, cawing, twinkle-eyed from Dexamyl. "Miss Lola" assays a song called "You're All Just Parasites (Draining Me of Love)." The song resembles Carly Simon's dreaded "That's the Way I Always Heard It Should Be," except that instead of describing the way the singer's parents failed her poor sensitive self, "You're All Just Parasites" is about the pitfalls of celebrity: "You buy and sell my autograph/ but in your face/ I hear a laugh/ It's like someone hit me with a kid glove ..."

Thirty years later, O'Hara has just about topped this essential comedy moment. Her "Marilyn Hack" meltdown takes place in front of the camera of a show very much like Entertainment Tonight. Its host, Fred Willard, intrudes on the modest driveway of actress Hack and finds her shitfaced at 7am. Willard is coiffed with what he has describes as a "faux-hawk": a 'do supposedly stolen from Beckham the soccer champ, though it looks like the weird quiff of Belgian cartoon legend Tintin. Hack, hideously disfigured from Botox, goes from slow burn to alcoholic Krakatoa, but it's all just a preliminary to her even more humiliating finale: the "but seriously, folks" bit afterward, in which Hack is teaching her students career-murdering crap-acting techniques she picked up from the ancient Bette Davis movie Jezebel.

The plot is simple. The can-do spirit of the cast and crew of a lousy "Sunfish" (i.e. Sundance) independent film provisionally titled "Home for Purim" is squashed by rivalry when they become Oscar buzzed. The media sows acres of discord. The first hour leaves the serious film fan draped with melancholy, knowing smiles; it's the last half hour where the magic comes in, and then you mutter, "Not since Preston Sturges ..." What an ensemble. Who does better cows than Jennifer Coolidge? The woman must be part Holstein. The excerpts of Parker Posey's cabaret piece "No Penis Intended" provide 100 nights of shuddery crypto-feminist little-theater rolled into one. Bob Balaban, waiting sadly for the crushing to come, like a hamster in the fist of a debauched little boy—well, he can be none other than a scribbler. (The PR claims that Balaban's character's is "co-writer-in-residence at Staten Island's Coleman Community College.") But the focus is small, let's admit it; For Your Consideration blasts entertainment reporters praising one particular aspect of a tiny indie film. From what I've written above, it would seem director Christopher Guest's comedy doesn't work as a cautionary tale.

Movie Times For Your Consideration (PG-13; 86 min.), directed by Christopher Guest, written by Guest and Eugene Levy, photographed by Roberto Schaefer and starring Bob Balaban, Parker Posey and Fred Willard, opens Nov. 22.

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