Writer/director Michael Samonek’s feature film debut is a twisted spin on the prolific romantic comedy genre where apparent misanthrope Scott Teller (Superman Returns’ Brandon Routh) ultimately teaches his meddlesome, married roommates (Sophia Bush and Jesse Bradford) of the virtues of normal couple bickering – an admittedly unique flipping of roles because as the film progresses, it becomes clear recently dumped Teller is the most grounded and emotionally stable person among the cast (including love interest Leslie, played by House’s Jennifer Morrison).
The problem with Samonek’s script is the prolonged focus on Teller’s new best friends, an idyllic couple that immediately switch to their innate, weird selves once they’ve moved into the spacious apartment, and refuse to unglue themselves from Teller’s every decision and social activity. Mary and Ryan are more than odd; they’re the most annoying couple on the planet, and Samonek spends far too much time in showing the various ways Teller is unnerved and slowly becomes suspicious of their intentions: eccentric friends with unorthodox methods of finding him true love, or outright nutters who should be incarcerated for tormenting audiences with their high-pitched physical nuances and screechy argot catch-phrases.
A birthday party near the film’s final act really should’ve come earlier, because it’s the natural point where Teller should’ve put his foot down and dealt with the couple’s disruptive behaviour, particularly after having a very illuminating conversation with their ex-law school pal Ted (Johnny Galecki). At that juncture, the film could’ve moved onto more dark and twisted terrain, but Table for Three is still a romantic comedy, so the script has to follow the rules and conventions, including the wooing of ‘free spirit’ costume designer Leslie – a fairly bland creation we know will end up with desperate Teller.
The dating scenes are quite perfunctory, although there’s a nicely conceived sequence where Teller attends a rehearsal for Shakespeare’s A Midsummernight’s Dream at an outdoor amphitheatre. Leslie’s gradual affection for Teller is very low-level, making the couple’s interest in living together hardly a dramatic spike in the film, and the inevitable finale where boy runs to girl after being scorned is perfunctory.
The performances are evocative of screwball comedies, and the film’s snappy editing maximizes the flow of visual and verbal gags that generally propel the film at a brisk pace. Table for Three is a compact and colourful production, but the genre’s conventions ultimately neuter whatever edge Samonek was trying to inject into the formula.
Starz/Anchor Bay’s DVD includes a lengthy making-of promo featurette with cast and director waxing happily about their characters, as well as a steady audio commentary with writer/director Samonek who provides slight info on the film's origins as a stage performance with his comedy troupe.
© 2009 Mark R. Hasan