Man Under Table

There’s no sitting on the fence with this one.

(2021) Avant Garde (Arrow) Noel David Taylor, Ben Babbitt, Danny Lane, James Canto, Robert Manion, Alisa Torres, Frank Perry, Sarabeth Tucek, John Edmund Parcher, Katy Fullan. Directed by Noel David Taylor

 

Hollywood is a place of contradictions. A place built on creativity yet creativity is actively discouraged there. A place where the more pretentious and self-promoting you are, the likely you are to make an impression that you are important (even if you’re not). A place that espouses liberal progressive values in every avenue other than how it treats the people who work there.

Noel David Taylor, a filmmaker who has to this point produced a number of peculiar but funny shorts, comes up with a peculiar but funny feature. In it he plays Guy, a screenwriter in a dystopian neo-futuristic El Lay where the pollution has become almost as toxic as the gladhanding. He is working on a screenplay, but is somewhat put out that his acquaintance Jill Custard (Fullan) has become an indie darling based on an overwritten, pretentious film – could she be related to Lars von Trier?

In any case, Guy gets sucked into assisting on a new project by Gerald (Parcher) whose scenes seem eerily familiar. In the meantime, Guy is beset by executives wondering if his new script is political. They are certain that identity politics is “in” although what that means is anybody’s guess; there is an awful lot of doublespeak in the rarefied air of the film industry. George Orwell would have had a field day there.

Guy describes his script as “not really a movie, just a bunch of scenes about some random guy.” The joke is that the character’s name is Guy. There are a lot of visual puns as well; sometimes Guy is glimpsed under pictures of tables (as well as under literal tables), giving the film its name. Taylor, who starred in, directed, wrote and produced this puppy, has definitely a sense of humor that might not appeal to everybody. The movie doesn’t move in a linear direction per se, although there is a story (of a sort) that it follows (usually but not always).

There’s no doubt that Taylor has a wicked imagination; some of the visuals are really quite wonderful, albeit made on a budget that would befit what Tom Cruise makes in about forty seconds on the average movie he stars in. And while the movie takes aim at the vapidity of the Hollywood indie scene, those who aren’t interested in such things are likely to find this a waste of their time.

This isn’t going to appeal to a large segment of the audience, nor is it meant to. Those who like their movies a bit offbeat, a little more risky than the average Hollywood production are likely to find this intriguing, or something worth obsessing over. In all honesty, that’s not me, but I can see how those who like the movies of Wes Anderson might be caught in the delights of this one.

REASONS TO SEE: There are definitely some imaginative aspects to the film. On-target with its skewering of Hollywood pretentions.
REASONS TO AVOID: Often feels like a grouping of disconnected scenes strung together. Too quirky for its own good generally.
FAMILY VALUES: Some profanity and adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: This is Taylor’s first full-length feature.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Arrow
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/13/21: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPINGM: The Player
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
The Macaluso Sisters

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