SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! One of the most memorable and relatable lines in Noel David Taylor’s Man Under Table is, “Sometimes I get excited about all the possibilities there are until I realize none of them are available to me.” It hit me like a ton of bricks because I believe it encompasses many people’s experiences when trying to break into the entertainment industry. This is especially true if you don’t happen to have rich/ famous parents or went to NYU Film School, which just so happens to be the crux of the story of the film. The main character is writing a film, and he keeps getting reminded how much of a pain in the a** that is. The thing that makes this comedic fantasy-drama special is that it takes place in a bizarro future Los Angeles. That and the fact that it pretty accurately puts the film industry under the microscope in a hilarious and unique way.
Guy (Noel David Taylor) is trying to write a screenplay. He has some contacts within the industry, including the up-and-coming director Jill Custard (Katy Fullan) and her close associate/ maybe-boyfriend, Ben (Ben Babbitt). Guy spends a lot of time at bars where he is constantly bombarded by content creators such as Lyle (Robert Manion), an Australian YouTube (or whatever its equivalent is in this universe) sensation. There are always industry execs around talking about “content” and how they find things such as identity politics and fracking extremely important. Two particular execs, played by Alisa Torres and Frank Perry, often ask, “is it political?” The portrayal of these L.A. archetypes is pretty spot-on and a little damning.
“…confused about how to navigate the Hollywood system and settles on helping Gerald write a screenplay...”
One of my favorite aspects of Man Under Table is the production design. Futuristic L.A. is very bland, smoky to the point of poisonous, and still filled with vainglorious idiots. So no one gets mad at me here, there are plenty of vainglorious idiots in the entertainment industry in New York as well! There are also a lot of cardboard cut-outs instead of extras, old 90s laptops, and gas-masks that remind me of our current favorite Covid era fashion statements.
Taylor is hilarious as someone who’s too young to be a curmudgeon but definitely is one. He’s confused about how to navigate the Hollywood system and settles on helping Gerald (John Edmund Parcher) write a screenplay that is eerily similar to the scenes we have already witnessed. We feel this confusion in the way the script is written and the way the scenes are structured.
This film is definitely weird. It doesn’t follow a normal narrative structure as the chronology of what is happening is not necessarily important. It’s more about the statement being made about the problems that currently exist and always have existed in the entertainment industry. Man Under Table highlights how impossible it feels to get something made or even get someone to talk to you about something you want to make. As well as the disillusionment and jealousy one feels in the process. I think any fledgling filmmaker should watch it, as well as anyone who’s worked in the industry for a long time. It speaks to the screenwriting experience in a similar way that Adaptation does except with more vitriol and less Nicolas Cage. It makes me curious about what Noel David Taylor is going to do next. This weirdo indictment of Hollywood is just that interesting.
Man Under Table premiered at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…the chronology of what is happening is not necessarily important."