Anyone who has sat in a filmmaking or creative writing class will relate to a scene or two in the quirky Man Under Table. The low-budget film is a mix of the theater of the absurd, dystopian drama, and a shrewd comedy on the nature of art and the struggles to create and find success. It’s not a perfect film by any means. At times, the jokes tire, but more scenes work than falter.
Writer/director Noel David Taylor also stars as “The Guy,” a beleaguered writer living in a dystopian LA. He tries and tries to finish his script. No matter where he goes, be it a bar or a restaurant, he’s constantly getting pulled into other people’s projects, sacrificing his own writing time in the process. First, it’s a film by indie darling Jill Custard (Katy Fullan), and then it’s a writing project by Gerald (John Edmund Parcher). Gerald wants to share his story with the world, so he hires Guy. After all, doesn’t everyone want to publish or film something? The problem is, he has no clue about craft, so the project never materializes.
There’s so much commentary crammed into less than 90 minutes that it’s hard to keep track of it all. Buzz words like identity politics and content are used repeatedly. At one point, Guy meets with two studio execs. Just by dropping Custard’s name, they want to see his non-existent script. He keeps them hooked by continually mentioning words he knows they want to hear. He doesn’t even need to present them with a script. It’s a funny scene but a sad commentary on art and consumerism.
One specific line really cuts through all the absurdity. To paraphrase, Guy, deflated, admits that he’s often excited by all the possibilities and dreams he can imagine but admits he doesn’t have the money or connections to pursue them. It’s the truest dialogue in the film about why some creatives find success and others don’t. This isn’t just true of filmmaking but publishing as well.
Even vlogging is lampooned, specifically through the character of Lyle (Robert Manion), a viral YouTuber of sorts and a sycophant of Custard who constantly name drops her to boost subscribers. Sure, he reviews movies, but instead of analyzing her new film “Fracked Up,” he’d rather gush about the premier and the after-party. Even a serious issue like fracking becomes superficial fodder to gain popularity.
Despite some of the heavy commentary, there’s a lot of fun to be had marveling at the absurdist set-pieces filled with cardboard cutout people, gas masks, and laptops that date back to the 90s, at least. Man Under Table is loaded with dry humor, but it’s very much a movie for creatives about creatives. It’s artsy, super indie, and imaginative. Man Under Table wears thin near the hour mark, but that doesn’t devalue its overall take on the artist in the 21st Century.
6 Out of 10 Unfinished Scripts