★★★ out of ★★★★★
Man Under Table is a surreal, darkly comic commentary on the trials and tribulations of independent filmmaking. It has an air of dread and bleakness of the horror-adjacent kind.
Directed by Noel David Taylor
Writer/director/star Noel David Taylor’s horror-adjacent, dark meta-comedy Man Under Table is a surreal look at the struggles of a person on the fringes of Hollywood filmmaking. It’s relatable to anyone who has ever felt frustrated at the creative process or at breaking in at the next level.
Guy (Taylor) is a frustrated, curmudgeonly screenwriting hopeful who can’t seem to get started on his personal writing projects because of interference from others. He wanders around a dystopian Los Angeles, where a poisonous green gas that requires people to wear gas masks wafts through the air, and where monster attacks and other random acts of violence can occur at any moment. His acquaintance Ben (Ben Babbitt) has just hitched his wagon to the star of Jill Custard (Katy Fullan), who is a hot property at the moment because of her debut feature film that features identity politics and fracking — two of the many buzzwords and terms that play throughout Man Under Table, and that Guy wants nothing to do with.
When a fellow bar patron named Gerald (John Edmund Parcher) offers Guy a paid gig writing a screenplay because Gerald has no idea about how to format the story that is in his head, Guy jumps at the chance, only to find the task as frustrating as his other endeavors. Also stringing Guy along — as he is doing with them — are two film executives (Alisa Torres and Frank Perry in hilarious supporting roles) who love concepts and have a checklist of what they want in a script.
Taylor seems to be exorcising demons here from his varied experiences as a talent in front of and behind the camera. His meta commentary is often cynical, and as with most comedies, some jokes and gags work while others fall short of the mark. The world he creates is a fascinating one, especially considering the film’s low budget. Sparse, sometimes minimalist settings are punched up by clever sound design and the use of cardboard cutouts in place of actors.
The horrors of Man Under Table are of the existential and artistic suffering type. If you are in the mood for an offbeat comedy about the inner workings of independent filmmaking with shades of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit and a protagonist who falls somewhere between Richard E. Grant’s Withnail in Withnail and I and a far more negative version of Griffin Dunne’s Paul Hackett in After Hours, Man Under Table should fit the bill.
Man Under Table is a current release on the ARROW platform, which is available in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc.), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices , Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.