Man Under Table review – microbudget meta comedy makes fun of itself

At one point, the screenwriter protagonist of this microbudget meta comedy observes to the shady producer he’s working with that “this isn’t really a movie, just a bunch of scenes about some random guy”. It’s funny because it’s true – literally so. And also because the end credits reveal said protagonist’s name is actually Guy. An irritable, self-absorbed scribe on the fringe of the indie movie scene, Guy, who spends a bit of time under a real table as well as under pictures of tables, is played by the film’s writer-director-producer Noel David Taylor, who is clearly having fun mocking the milieu as well as himself. Early in the movie he seethes with jealously at the latest work by another self-serious film-maker (Katy Fullan), a delicious pastiche of arty cinema, all jump cuts, moody guys smoking next to shabby walls, and dumb voiceover monologue. (“I always thought fluorescent lights were so beautiful.”)

Taylor has made scads of jokey short films and this is his first feature, which ends up feeling like a series of jokey shorts strung together. With its absurdist sketches and sneaky setups for sharp one-liners, it’s like the recent Netflix sketch show I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson. What makes Taylor’s work a bit different is his willingness to make the profound lack of budget into a feature, using cheap green-screen effects to make it look as though the characters are wandering around doll’s house-size spaces, or using actual cardboard cutouts – plain brown ones, not even ones with lifesize figures printed on to them – to play extras. Money can’t buy you good comic instincts, inventiveness or a sense of playful whimsy, maar, fortunately, Taylor and his handful of collaborators have all that for free.

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