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For Your Consideration

Year: 2006
Production Co: Shangri-La Entertainment
Director: Christopher Guest
Writer: Christopher Guest/Eugene Levy
Cast: Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Bob Balaban, Michael McKean, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Ed Begley Jr, Jennifer Coolidge, Ricky Gervais, Larry Miller, Craig Bierko
Before Sacha Baron Cohen travelled the world entrancing fans and shocking critics with his racist, sexist and anti-Semitic Borat, another mockumentary character had already made waves across Australia (pardon the pun). In the guise of port-a-loo plumber Kenny, Shane Jacobson's national in-character tour neatly smoothed the way for the world's favourite Kazakh journalist and showed us all what to expect from actors playing their characters 24/7.

If there ever was a year for the mockumentary 2006 was it, so it's fitting we kick 2007 off with an offering from the godfathers who created the genre back in 1984 with This Is Spinal Tap.

The combined talents in the core team of Eugene Levy, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest are like their very own Altman; they never really do anything different from their signature product, but despite knowing what they're in for, fans of the genre can't wait for it.

The success of For Your Consideration - like all the Guest mockumentaries - lies in the deft subtlety. You're never watching caricatures, you're watching real people. Egotistical, paranoid and outright stupid - but people nevertheless.

As before, Guest's working method is to line up an institution many of us would consider a curio - in this case, the Hollywood B-list - and skewer it with a quiet but savage wit. If he were a murderer, he'd be the short, mild-mannered and bespectacled Dr Crippen rather than the brutish Leatherface most Hollywood comedies are.

You don't know what's on the list before you see the movie, but as Guest ticks things off you'll nod knowingly to yourself; surely this is exactly what the rudderless ship of Hollywood its like.

There are the writers (Balaban and McKean) who - through various comical means - nobody listens to. The producer (Coolidge) who has absolutely no idea what making movies entails. The interfering studio head (Gervais, a new and welcome addition to the troupe). The air-headed Hollywood circuit chat show hosts (Lynch and Willard) and the seasoned publicist who has to look something up on the 'interweb'. Most priceless of all is Catherine O'Hara as a fortysomething actress in rapid decline who'll do anything for the publicity to reach the top.

Home for Purim is a down-home, rootin-tootin, southern-style coming home story about a family of orthodox Jews about to lose the family matriarch (O'Hara) and eagerly awaiting the arrival of daughter Rachael (Posey).

We follow the shooting of the film, the scramble among the suits to work out how to sell it and the unconfirmed talk of awards that starts to circulate like a flu virus through the production. It's all presented in a fast and loose style and the characters that orbit the premise are faultless, from Eugene Levy's shyster agent to Sandra Oh's clueless and overeager graphic artist.

For Your Consideration is Guest's take on the old axiom 'in Hollywood, nobody knows anything'. The film is much more acerbic to be called a love letter, but if either the now-burgeoning mockumentary genre or the long history of self-scrutinising movies about moviemaking are your cup of tea, this is the best example of both in quite awhile.

The laughs come thick and fast, and while the writing and some of the performances are award-worthy, Guest and his posse are more likely to get blacklisted in a McCarthy-like ban by the rest of Hollywood. See For Your Consideration before they do.

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