You can't go anywhere with this thing until you bring up Christopher Guest, the director and one of the actors in the ensemble. He's responsible for (either directing or writing or both) the following: A Mighty Wind, Best In Show, Waiting For Guffman, and This Is Spinal Tap. If you've seen more than one of these movies, you'll know that there's a general similarity between the films (especially the first three). First, they're all pseudo-documentary styled pictures. Secondly, the cast (of which there are many) tends to be the same, or at least include many of the same actors. Third, they're not comedies like Tommy Boy, Dumb and Dumber, The Big Lebowski, Office Space, Big Mama's House, or Miss Congeniality 2 are comedies; they're not laugh-a-minute romps, nor do they try to be. And finally, each lampoons a different area of the arts in a way that exposes how crazy people can be within their chosen medium. Spinal Tap = Heavy Metal Music; Guffman = Theater; Best In Show = Dog Shows (not really an "art" in the conventional sense, but slag off); Mighty Wind = old time folk music. And For Your Consideration = Motion Pictures.
What you'll notice with this one right away is the fact that FYC isn't in that pseudo-documentary style. It almost seems kinda pointless to bring this up, because Guest just uses the interview stylings of these fake entertainment news reporters to get the same comedic point across, but it's a noticeable change. I don't know why, maybe he felt the pressure to try something different, but it seems to me, you know, who fucking cares? It's not like he completely goes the other way.
Here's the deal, this movie is, for lack of a better word, considerably funnier than A Mighty Wind. But, it's also about 50 times more depressing than anything I've ever seen Christopher Guest a part of, which you would think negates the last sentence. But, it's true. The characters pop more in this movie than they have in a while. Eugene Levy as the louse of an agent, John Michael Higgins as ... whoever he is in the movie, and especially Jennifer 'Stifler's Mom' Coolidge completely steal the show with their dialogue. Not to mention the tasteful addition of Ricky Gervais who's funny in just about anything that's not Night At The Museum.
Where this movie deviates from the others is subtle but no less tragic. See, with all of the aforementioned Guest movies, it ends with defeat for the main characters, but also a little hope. In Spinal Tap, you had the dwindling of their last-gasp tour across America, only to see the resurrection of the Tap in Japan. In Guffman, the talent agent never showed, but the cast picked up the pieces of their lives and moved on to other things. I don't recall what happened in Best In Show, but in A Mighty Wind, after the climax of the reunion concert, again everyone found themselves in different places than when they'd started.
As for FYC, the entire movie centers on this growing buzz about the movie they're working on (Home For Purim, only later to be changed to the less-Jewish Home For Thanksgiving) getting nominated for various Oscar-related acting awards. The three characters in question - Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, and especially the indomitable Catherine O'Hara - get their hopes up all the while outwardly trying to project this Just Happy To Be Here mentality. In the end, all three are rejected for the nominations, and we as the audience are forced to stare into the devistated, plastic-surgery-malformed face of Catherine O'Hara as she begs and pleads for the TV screen to say her name, realizing the futility in such fantasy. It's heartbreaking to witness the transformation in O'Hara's character, who goes from an aging D-List actress in an independent film to the living embodiment of what's wrong with Hollywood today. In getting her hopes up for this Oscar nomination, she gets all of this cosmetic work done to her body, starts attending these phony Hollywood parties, and completely believes in the hype.
Even the closing scene of the film (before the requisite denouement where we all learn what happens to the characters three months later), when Fred Willard - hilarious as always - goes the tactless route of interviewing the three characters who weren't nominated to get their reaction, even he can't save this scene from being utterly cold and desolate. I mean, I've always believed that Fred Willard could make a sack of three-legged puppies being run over by a steamroller funny, but he can't repell the pain and anguish of the devastated characters from affecting the audience. Even the denouement itself - normally reserved for Guest to inject some last-minute gags - feels like a dirge for the people involved.
And that's the point. Hollywood is a cold, heartless, money-grubbing bitch for everyone not named Pitt or Jolie. People everywhere look to southern California as the Land of Eternal Hopes & Dreams, where a farmer's daughter in Oklahoma can buy a plane ticket, get a job as a waitress, and find herself the leading actress in an Oscar-winning film in a matter of weeks. FYC is a reality check, forcing everyone to face the cruel fact that, for most people in Hollywood, it's not all blowjobs and gravy. It's years of toil to even think about achieving the D-List status; a 1-in-a-billion shot to make that superstar level; and if you're resting all of your hopes on Hollywood coming through for you in a meaningful way, you might as well realize right now that more dreams are killed on a daily basis than those fulfilled in a lifetime.