The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE COFFEE TABLE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - THE COFFEE TABLE

The Coffee Table review
A purchase of a coffee table leads to a couple's ruin.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Caye Casas

Starring: David Pareja, Estefanía de los Santos, Claudia Riera, Josep Riera, Itziar Castro, Emilio Gavira

The Coffee Table poster

There's dark humour and there's DARK humour. Caye Casas' The Coffee Table falls very much into the latter category. It takes one of the most devastating mishaps imaginable and fashions a farce from its fraught aftermath. We're asked to not only empathise but identify with a protagonist who acts in a way that is objectively unconscionable, but the event in question is so traumatising that we can only guess how we might react if we were unfortunate enough to find ourselves in the same position.

The Coffee Table review

The marketing for The Coffee Table has kept a specific detail ambiguous, so I'll do likewise in this review. What I will say however is that you shouldn't misread the premise as that of another horror movie about a possessed or cursed inanimate object. The titular furnishing here is only cursed if you actually believe in such a concept, and there are no supernatural forces at play. It's simply a case of bad luck.

That ill-fate befalls Jesús (David Pareja) and Maria (Estefanía de los Santos), the bickering couple who take possession of the table. The movie opens with the pair receiving the hard sell from a furniture salesman who insists the table in question is the most fantastic piece of furniture ever designed. Maria is horrified by its tackiness (its glass top is held aloft by two naked women painted in fake gold) but Jesús is won over by the gaudy object. Arguing that Maria has made every single choice in their marriage up to that point, Jesús takes a stand and purchases the table.

The Coffee Table review

When Maria heads out to the shops to purchase some food and wine for the impending visit of Jesús's brother Carlos (Josep Maria Riera) and his teenage girlfriend Cristina (Claudia Riera), Jesús begins assembling the table. He finds an essential screw is missing from the designed in Sweden but made in China piece, and insists that the salesman bring him a replacement screw. He also finds that the salesman's claims of the table being unbreakable are wildly off the mark. Thus occurs the inciting incident, which Jesús spends the rest of the movie trying to keep a secret from his wife, their lunch guests, and various other interlopers.

The ensuing narrative takes the form of a classic farce as Jesús tries to keep his terrible secret hidden, steering people away from certain rooms and from looking under incriminating pieces of furniture, lest they uncover the horrific truth. Some reviewers have confessed to being completely unable to get on board with the comedy due to the dark nature of the material. As a sicko who can find humour in anything and believes no topic should be off-limits for comedy, this wasn't my issue with The Coffee Table. I didn't find it particularly amusing not because of its bad taste setup, but because Casas struggles to mine enough laughs from the scenario. There's a long stretch of the movie in which the central quartet is gathered around the dinner table, during which the movie loses all the gruesome momentum it had built up to that point. The whole affair is essentially a sick and twisted episode of Fawlty Towers, with Jesús in the Basil role of trying to keep a secret from the Sybil-stand-in Maria, but it sorely lacks the manic energy of that show. Casas sets up some potential pitfalls - like a smitten 13-year-old neighbour who threatens to call around at some point and tell Maria a fabricated story about Jesús behaving inappropriately, or the arrival of the screw-bearing salesman - but any comic potential such interjections might have had are squandered. The salesman arrives too early and the girl too late in the proceedings for either of them to have any impact.

The Coffee Table review

In fairness to Casas, I doubt even the best comedy writer could sustain this premise to full effect for 90 minutes. There's a reason why sitcoms only last 30 minutes after all. There's probably a very effective 30 minute short to be edited from The Coffee Table, but as a feature film it's something of a patience tester. Like another recent Spanish shocker, Hugo Ruiz's One Night with Adela, it boasts a jaw-dropping moment that might be enough to earn it cult status in certain circles, but fails to justify the movie built around that talking point.

The Coffee Table
 is on UK/ROI VOD from May 20th.

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