Table This Film…For Good
Have you ever attended a wedding and ended up wanting to crawl into a hole because you were seated at a table with complete strangers? Despite the initial awkwardness, these situations can often result in hilarious stories. Table 19, the comedy-drama written and directed by Jeffrey Blitz, banks on this situation being funny enough to sustain a movie. Although Table 19 is plated with potential, can it deliver the goods?
The film opens with Eloise (Anna Kendrick, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, 2016) receiving a wedding invitation, which sparks a variety of emotions for her. One minute Eloise is vindictive and the next she’s sobbing. After much internal debate, Eloise draws an “x” on the RSVP card for yes, then crosses it out, then starts burning it and finally sends the half burnt piece of cardstock in the mail.
Through an entertaining montage, we’re introduced to a number of other wedding guests including: Jerry and Bina (Craig Robinson, Sausage Party, 2016; Lisa Kudrow, The Girl on the Train, 2016) a married couple that seem to have lost their passion, Tony (Rezno Eckberg, Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014) a socially awkward teenager who is unlucky in the dating world, Walter (Stephen Merchant, Logan, 2017) a distant cousin who was recently released from prison and Jo Flanagan (June Squibb, Other People, 2016) the bride’s childhood babysitter. Although they all react differently to the invite, they are all surprised to be invited and respond ‘yes.’ You’re likely to correctly predict what’s to come…
This comedy has a clever premise with potential and a few funny moments, but is plagued by a number of problems. The main issue is the film’s identity crisis with its tone. It’s inconsistent throughout. One moment, audiences may feel as though they’re in a slapstick comedy, then a sad indie drama, or even a traditional rom-com. Unfortunately, the film never connects to the beats of any of these genres.
When Eloise arrives at the wedding and is looking for her place card, the best man and brother of the bride, Teddy (Wyatt Russell, 22 Jump Street, 2014), is shocked she actually decided to show face. We soon discover that Eloise used to be the maid of honor and dated Teddy before they broke up over a text. Although Eloise knows everyone at the wedding because of her close relationship with the bride, she is assigned to table 19 where she is joined by the random assortment of guests from the montage. Right after each person at the table introduces themselves awkwardly, Eloise explains how she was dumped by the best man who is now dating the new maid of honor. The group is sympathetic to her plight, but still wonders why they were all put together at table 19 as they don’t seem to have any commonalities whatsoever. Eloise, who is still emotional from her confrontation with her ex, Teddy, harshly tells the group that they are all sitting together because the couple hoped that none of them would actually show up, a fact she knows because she helped with the invites. Although initially hurt by the news, the entire group comes to the aid of Eloise (in the women’s restroom) when she throws up after seeing Teddy kiss his new girlfriend. The now united members of table 19 resolve to help Eloise get back at Teddy and bond over their outcast status.
The cast features a number of talented actors, but they are not provided a chance to fully utilize their strengths nor develop their characters and generally seem mismatched. While we understand the desire for a dynamic, contrasting cast of characters, these relationships were not believable whatsoever – from Teddy and Eloise and their distinct intelligence gap to Jerry and Bina who interact more like business partners. There were too many awkward pairings and odd characters introduced all at once, which would have needed a movie twice as long to fully empathize with the characters’ arcs. The only exception to this is the ‘matriarch’ of the table, Jo, June Squibb’s character, who may have had the most screen time and dialogue…and rightfully so. I was expecting to laugh out loud given the premise and actors involved and just couldn’t force it long enough.
Bottom Line: No need to reserve time for this flick. The identity crisis with the film’s overall tone makes for a bit of a mess of a movie. The wedding table full of strangers premise had potential, but it fell flat. You wouldn’t be missing out by respectfully declining your RSVP for Table 19.
Credits: Written and directed by Jeffrey Blitz
Cast: Anna Kendrick (Eloise McGarry), Craig Robinson (Jerry Kepp), June Squibb (Jo Flannagan), Lisa Kudrow (Bina Kepp), Stephen Merchant (Walter Thimble), Renzo Eckberg (Tony Revolori), Wyatt Russell (Teddy), Amanda Crew (Nikki)
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Running Time: 87 minutes