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Helene Dunbar's Response
Christopher Guest's For Your Consideration is one of those movies that smart, artsy, urban people are meant to like. Filled with in-jokes about the movie industry, the film which stars Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Harry Shearer, and Michael McKean, with an appearance by Ricky Gervais, is a movie about the making of a horrible melodrama called Home for Purim .
|The cast of Christopher Guest's For Your Consideration includes (from L to R) Christopher Moynihan as Brian Chubb, Harry Shearer as Victor Allen Miller, Catherine O'Hara as Marilyn Hack and Parker Posey as Callie Webb. Photo by Suzanne Tenner © 2006 Shangri-La Entertainment, LLC|
The story of Home for Purim is pretty much what you'd think: dying mother whose favorite holiday is Purim is visited by son home from the Navy and daughter who takes the opportunity to come out of the closet. The story of For Your Consideration revolves around the rumors of who might actually receive an Academy Award nomination, although it's clear to anyone watching that they don't give Oscars for the worst performances of the year. Neither movie is particularly interesting or clever. Just so you don't think that I don't "get" inside jokes, irony, and satire, know that I'm a fan of Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." The difference is that that show is smart and funny. If you're going to make fun of something your jokes had better stand up, and those in For Your Consideration are just trite and predictable.
I wondered ahead of time how much of the "Jewish humor" my non-Jewish husband would understand. As it turns out, he pretty much understood as much as I did. Yes, he asked what kugel was (noodle pudding for those who didn't grow up with it) and yes, we had a short discussion after the film in which I recounted the Purim story of Queen Esther (although he'd managed to remember that Purim was the holiday where you dressed up and were meant to drink until you couldn't tell right from wrong).
I realized quickly that it wasn't religion that was going to confuse him; after all, since we'd been together I've had a number of jobs with Jewish organizations; he's read the newsletters I edited and commented on my holiday-based write-ups. He's even learned to understand my father's very "Jewish" sense of humor. But I had been a theatre minor in college and still had a number of friends in the arts at various levels. I "got" the Hollywood story that was being spoofed: the "Entertainment Tonight" take-offs, the backstage posturing, the over-botox'd aging actress. He would never watch the actual entertainment shows and never remembers actor's names and resumes. It just doesn't interest him.
And so, early on in the film, I was struck by a case of typically Jewish guilt for having dragged him to a movie he never would have seen voluntarily (where were the car chases? the gadgets? This is a man for whom the new James Bond doesn't even have enough!) "Why won't these people just stop talking?" I felt him think from the seat next to me.
As we walked out though, I knew that whatever differences of thought we brought into the theater, we were leaving with a shared one: this movie is "dreck" (worthless) whether it's said in Yiddish or English.
John Dunbar's Response
There is really nothing "Jewish" about For Your Consideration .
|Fred Willard stars as entertainment reporter Chuck in For Your Consideration . Photo by Suzanne Tenner © 2006 Shangri-La Entertainment, LLC|
Yes, there is the movie-within-a-movie that is Jewishly called Home for Purim, but even that is changed to Home for Thanksgiving in order to give it, the producers think, a wider audience base.
Yes, there are people wearing crowns like Queen Esther and spinning noisemakers to drown out Haman's name which they're speaking in strange put-on Southern drawls.
And yes, I think I heard someone say "Oy vey," but perhaps that was someone in the audience who was trying, as I was, to figure out if this 86-minute film was ever going to make a point, tell a story, or say anything remotely funny. In fact, I'm still not sure if this was meant to be a comedy, drama or someone's really bad home movie. I can't say any part of the movie made me uncomfortable from a religious standpoint; but it certainly did from an entertainment one.
For the uneducated, the movie did not actually make any attempt to explain the meaning of Purim. In fact, I'm not even sure why the subplot of this movie was Jewish. Was it because there is the perception that Hollywood studios are run primarily by Jews? Was it to automatically confuse those audience members who weren't already confused by the pointlessness of what passed for a plot? Certainly, the sub-movie could have been about a Chinese family and nothing would have changed. Perhaps their Southern drawls might have sounded even stranger, but then, what difference would have that made?
I would be remiss if I didn't fess up to having actually laughed once during this film. A weathercaster. A monkey… Perhaps you had to be there, but believe me seeing the film wasn't worth it for that one laugh. Nevertheless, in the end, to be honest, I think the monkey should have gotten the Oscar nomination!