Screeners: “The Coffee Table” and “Divertimento”


The Coffee Table



I was trying to recall which movie Spain’s The Coffee Table reminded me of, and then it came to me: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. That’s a compliment. A big compliment.

Both films revolve around an unexpected death and, since we learn early on who is responsible, you wouldn’t call their plots “whodunits.” They are suspense dramas. The audience is kept on edge wondering if, when, and how the culprit might be caught.

Estefania de los Santos and David Pareja play first-time parents (both well into middle-age) who argue about, and then purchase, an unusual coffee table. Problem is: the table might be cursed. Shortly after they install the piece of furniture into their living room, bad things happen.

The Coffee Table is all about dramatic tension, and that’s where it almost, but not quite, reaches Hitchcockian levels.

If I must quibble — and I must because that’s what I do — I’d say the only part of the movie that falters is the final plot revelation, which doesn’t quite ring true. Release: 2022  Grade: B+


Note:  A number of reviews describe The Coffee Table as a “black comedy.” Uh, no. With subject matter about as dark and disturbing as it comes, there is precious little humor in the film.









I can’t fault the director of Divertimento for lack of ambition. His 30-minute short film is well-produced and feels like James Bond in an episode of The Twilight Zone. But ambition can only take you so far.

The Plot:  A handsome, tuxedoed man and a pretty lady return to the scene of a prank which went horribly wrong. This location is a gorgeous chateau in France where other handsome men and pretty ladies engage in high-stakes chess games … and a much deadlier game.

The Problems:  Everyone in the cast is oh-so-earnest, which is unfortunate when they are subjected to cringeworthy dialogue, sloppy edits, and flashbacks that confuse more than they illuminate. The plot is clearly going for an everything-is-not-as-it-seems vibe, a la The Sixth Sense. Alas, the result is a pretty but incomprehensible mess. Release: 2020  Grade: D


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