Monday, April 25, 2011

Casablanca Deconstructed: Sending Up Table One

Released in 2000, the film Table One strips the glamour from Rick’s iconic nightclub—and reveals strippers galore.  Set in that denizen of pretenders, the Great White Way of New York, this wry comedy introduces a whole cast of males who deliver every line as if it were Bogart’s secret to life—and female surrender—including “Everybody wants to be Rick from Casablanca.”

The film announces its intentions when one pretender after another claims the honor of running the joint the slick way—right into the ground.  Standing in for Bogart’s fascists, small-time hoods compete for sophistication beyond all their means.  Chief among the competitors, the balding fiery Frankie “Chips” (Burt Young) throws food and the truth—with guns to back him up.
So, is the audience of this film, clued to falsehood from the get-go, supposed to laugh or burp on their way to a fantasy climax?  Pretense is as pretence does. The plot requires the total fool in the lot to realize that his pop’s money alone will NOT get him—as they say—a life.  Every circuit of the club brings viewers back to Norman (David Herman).  Call him Norman Normal NOT.
The primary normal trait which Norman demonstrates is what is known as The American Dream.  But that mirage never appeared so far overseas that it took a plane to carry it off in the person of an innocent blonde—or did it?  Standing in for Ingrid Bergman, a ditzy girl waltzes her way into—and right out of—a seduction scheme, launched by Norman, who ends up, of course, throwing up.
Can more ways be discovered to stand the glamour of the forties on its head?  This movie goes for broke.  A lengthy discussion of the joint’s cuisine reveals that Frankie “Chips” doesn’t eat shrimp, which he considers “bugs.”  Norman might have a chance with the girl of his dreams if he could recall his pretender’s name, which he can’t, even after practicing before a mirror.  
Perhaps Norman’s chances would improve, if the girl in question (Mary Hammet) were not also on the make.  She sells chairs for a living, but Norman cannot even throw her out of “his” Casablanca because, when the “chips” are down, Frankie “Chips” owns the place—kit, caboodle, and dames. In her perfectly innocuous way, she actually explains that each chair goes for “$4,900”!
Who can picture Ingrid Bergman hustling chairs while turning her short blonde curls into an admiring camera? But then, who could imagine Frankie “Chips,” the thug of the moment, collapsing in laughter as a gay stripper’s designer (Luis Guzman) shrieks when his face suffers a ding?  And how about that former actor, known as “Jimmy,” (Stephen Baldwin) stealing the show by courting Norman’s girl?
If send-ups are your thing, this thing is made for you!  Get inside the glam that comes and goes faster than World War 2.  Remember those times when a fish landed in your lap just as you thought you owned some stupid thing, too!  But the future is always for the foolish—and that plane can take you to Casablanca any old time—just don’t ride Southwest!   

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