DVD: For Your Consideration
Release date: February 20, 2007
Director: Christopher Guest. Written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy
Starring Catherine O’Hara, Ed Begley Jr., Bob Balaban, Michael McKean, Eugene Levy, Harry Shearer, John Michael Higgins, Christopher Guest, Parker Posey, Rachael Harris, Jennifer Coolidge, Chris Moynihan, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch
The movie opens with a scene from the 1938 film Jezebel, in which Bette Davis plays a southern belle bucking the southern social system to her own detriment. Jezebel is being raptly viewed by a put-to-pasture actor aptly named Marilyn Hack (astutely portrayed by Catherine O’Hara), who is preparing to go to a shoot for the movie Home for Purim.
Jezebel showcases the most degrading black stereotypes while voicing a feeble condemnation of slavery, inadvertently revealing Hollywood’s artifice and moral cowardice. For Your Consideration, on the other hand, shows up Hollywood’s artifice and moral cowardice quite deliberately.
The actors’ lines are what really carry this message. As an example, while instructing a young actress (who, by the way, is obviously far more talented than Marilyn herself), Marilyn offers this sage utterance, delivered with a cosmetically stretched smile that renders the final clause all the more hilarious: ?Oh I wish that I could jump-cut you babies right now to the happy place that I’m in! I have learned that if I can expunge everything within, I am left comfortable in my own skin.?
Comfort with one’s self, whatever that means, and how much of it one is willing to sacrifice, is a recurring motif. A pair of studio executives meets with the movie’s producer and writers to ask them to tone down the movie’s ?Jewish-ness,? with the result that the movie’s title is changed to Home for Thanksgiving. The execs are goys claiming not to care about race while demanding that the movie reflect the cultural practices of their own ethnic group.
One of the things that get cut from the film within the film is ?The Purim Song,? written by Guest himself and housing the disguised exhortation to speak out bravely on behalf of your people even at the risk of death. (Would Esther and Mordecai have consented to change this to a Thanksgiving movie? I think not, although they may have quailed a little.)
The Purim exhortation is spectacularly rejected by all, which is what makes this Guest’s first truly dark comedy in a repertoire of satirical films, which includes the inimitable This is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind.
For Your Consideration ingeniously uses anti-Semitism as a key to the more general social pathology afflicting Hollywood and with which Hollywood is eager to infect the world. Guest pokes fun at pretenders in this movie, as always, but the roots go deeper this time. He must be familiar with the following tidbit of American entertainment history:
“In 1940, Joseph P. Kennedy went to Hollywood to address its mostly Jewish studio chiefs . . . Kennedy told his lunch audience to ?stop making anti-Nazi pictures or using the film medium to promote or show sympathy to the cause of the ?democracies? versus the ?dictators.?? He told the executives that the Jews were already being blamed for the war. His bullying was effective: the studio chiefs, uneasy about their ethnic heritage and therefore susceptible to the call of assimilation, were frightened into compliance by his message, until America entered the war a year later.”
~Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Republic Online
Anti-Semitism, monstrous as it is (and all the more so when wearing the face of middle class intellectual civility), is only one horn on the bigger monster the movie is presenting, i.e., the abandonment of the true self in a narcissistic search for an artificial self which will be lovingly reflected back to you in the eyes of a stupefied but admiring public.
And the devil take what the critics have to say. ?There’s no sense to listening to what anyone has to say about you,? Marilyn Hack blurts out in a TV interview. ?[Because] suddenly I’m looking into a mirror, and God I don’t want that!?
Visual and verbal allusions to fakery abound (a note to shallow males: more and bigger breast implants appear as the story unfolds); even in the directors’ commentary Guest and Levy make a tongue-in-cheek attempt to convince us that their bay-window abdomens and balding pates were provided by the costume department.
The Bard could use some help scouting out new material. If you discover any books, compact disks, or movies which came out in the last twelve months and which you think fit the Bard’s criteria, please drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. If I agree with your recommendation, I’ll thank you online.