Table 19 (2017)
Don’t Fit In? Take A Number.
Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashion wedding? For one, these joyous occasions give us a chance to whip out our formal wear, which (let’s face it) probably doesn’t get a dust-off often; besides, they’re great as social springboards, providing us with an opportunity to rekindle or reconnect with old friends, family members and loved ones. And, with amazing multi-course meals and scrumptious desserts, who could forget the after-ceremonial reception, these custom-made for mingling, where acting ‘the fool’ on the dance floor isn’t exactly frowned upon. Come to think of it, I’ve got a big shindig lined up in a couple of months, with one of my besties about to get hitched! With all this in mind, the wedding-themed dramedy Table 19, the latest from filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz, fails to recapture any matrimonial magic, the flick centering around six ‘oddball’ individuals who decide to formally attend the Millner-Grotsky vow-exchanging affair, despite the fact that each should have ‘regretfully declined.’
The movie follows Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick), who, as it turns out, has been relieved of her duty as Maid of Honor after being nastily dumped via text message by the Best Man Teddy (Wyatt Russell), the brother of the bride and Eloise’s former flame. Poised and self-assured, though with a sizable chip on her shoulders, Eloise decides to show up anyway (after some serious umming and ahhing), seeing as the bride-to-be, Francie (Rya Meyers), was, after all, still her oldest pal. Besides, Eloise was determined to prove to Teddy that she was well and truly over him! But, with our bitter heroine having helped plan the big day — more specifically, laying out the table arrangements — she knows exactly what being plopped onto the dreaded Table 19 (situated at the rear of the ballroom) truly means — and that is, being unwanted.
When arriving, however, Eloise is surprised to see that the other denizens of Table 19 (taking a leaf out of her book) had also RSPV’d with a ‘Yes.’ Situated at the table we have squabbling couple Jerry and Bina Kepp (Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow), who are ‘business associates’ — well, more like Facebook friends — with the groom’s dad, both owning a diner chain in Central Ohio. Then there is celibate teen Renzo Eckberg (Tony Revolori), whose late father kinda-sorta knew the groom’s, Renzo forced to attend the ceremony by his irksome mother, Freda (Margo Martindale), who desperately hoped that her awkward son (who has absolutely no clue how to interact with the opposite sex) would meet a nice girl. We also have Jo Flanagan (June Squibb), Teddy and Francie’s devoted childhood nanny, and Walter Thimble (Stephen Merchant), a distant nephew of the bride’s father whose disreputable deeds have led his current ostracization, Walter shunned by his entire family. And so, as the day and night festivities unfold, Eloise learns some invaluable life-lessons (acknowledging her own shortcomings and insecurities), these coming to light thanks to the table full of rejects, with our protagonist discovering that first impressions (and assumptions) may not always be accurate, as each of the tablemates, just like Eloise, has their own ulterior motive for attending the union.
Monotonous, muddled and dull, Table 19 is a long and grueling sit-through, even if proceedings do last a mere 87 minutes. Truth be told, the film’s initial premise (along with its fun, zippy trailer) showed genuine signs of promise; six ‘pity invite’ strangers seated on the ‘randoms’ table at a wedding they probably shouldn’t have chosen to attend — who knows what shenanigans could’ve propped up at such a kooky juncture, the setup ripe with possibility. As it turns out, there’s simply not a lot going on here, this partly due to writers Jay and Mark Duplass, Cyrus (2010), whose banal mumblecore screenplay wanes the material. We’re given unfunny slapstick gags that revolve around characters bumbling, fumbling and toppling over (for no good reason), each of these scenarios having little to no comic effect, a majority of the movie’s ‘laughs’ and surprises falling terribly flat. And don’t even get me started on a pathetic ongoing butler quip. Furthermore, there’s no playful banter between the Table 19 guests, no real tiffs arise and there’s little to no depth or intrigue behind who these ‘nobodys’ are, most of whom are unrelatable anyway, the reasons as to why they wind up sitting in the outcast corner utterly uninteresting.
So, instead of what was hinted at in the marketing, we’re given a lame and generic, disjointed plot that struggles to find its footing, the movie essentially a glum sob-story with under-developed leads and lackluster beats — seriously, I have no idea why the picture was billed as a comedy; it’s just not funny. With that said, there are so many sporadic and unconvincing twists and ‘revelations,’ most of which go nowhere; honestly, it often feels as though each 15 minute interval were penned by a completely different writer. We are presented with a mystery wedding crasher, this in the form of a charming Thomas Cocquerel, Red Dog: True Blue (2016), a story-thread that literally amounts to nada, and a mangled wedding-cake complication that causes no real stress or tension — the bride and groom don’t even notice that their decorative sweet has gone walkabouts, and when it does conveniently ‘return,’ it looks absolutely nothing like its original version. Also, get this, a handful of celebrators (those on the titular table, including Kendrick’s ex-bridesmaid) change their wardrobe mid-bash without any of the chief patrons (mainly the newlyweds) noticing — either everybody was overly drunk or just too dense to realize. If Eloise were my oldest friend and altered her outfit halfway during my wedding, it’d certainly catch my eye.
Visually, the picture doesn’t offer any splashy or extravagant sights either, and bar its slightly inspired function-room set-up opener (this intercut with intros of the flick’s main players), Table 19 is a sensory bore, the sets and furnishings by first-time production designer Timothy David O’Brien only mildly appealing; given that the bulk of the story takes place in a single location, and over a 24-hour timeframe, things get fairly stale, quick. Sure, Kendrick is an eyeful when she’s all dolled up, clad in a cute pink and lacy floral gown, but she’s thrown into commoner’s gear at around the midway point, this frustrating creative choice killing any enjoyment viewers may have been suckling from that angle — don’t judge me people, I was clutching at straws! Directed by Jeffrey Blitz, whose 2002 documentary Spellbound was nominated for an Oscar, Table 19 seems more focused on capturing moments rather than crafting a cohesive and bubbly narrative, and, if the chit-chat and character exchanges weren’t so bland and droning, this wouldn’t have been a problem. Perhaps, as a feature filmmaker, Blitz is more suited to the doco format, as his rom-com approach to Table 19 — the flick clearly aiming to generate a Wedding Singer (1998) type vive — simply misses the mark (by a long shot), with overall proceedings floundering rather than supplying cheery sparkle or fizz.
Despite its first-rate cast, most of the performances lack spunk and wit, with Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect (2012), being the only member to deliver an emotionally sound arc — it’s just a shame that Eloise’s neediness for a man undoes some of Kendrick’s passable work, this ‘uncool’ story-strand setting feminism back about a decade or so. Funny-man Craig Robinson, This Is the End (2013), who’s usually a barrel of laughs, is just plain boring, while it looks as though Lisa Kudrow, Easy A (2010) would prefer to be elsewhere, and not on the set of Table 19. Wyatt Russell’s, Everybody Wants Some!! (2016), Teddy comes off as an unlikable goof — so why is the gorgeous Eloise lusting after him? — but it’s Stephen Merchant, Logan (2017), who takes the cake as the flick’s most detestable character, Merchant portraying the nauseating creepazoid Walter, whose poor attempts at comedy don’t even manage to generate a smirk — this is perhaps more a fault of the script rather than performer.
Frankly, I found sitting through Table 19 to be a less than stellar experience, 90 or so minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. If you’re desperate to catch every film in any of the stars’ back catalog, then maybe (and I do stress maybe) give this lame and dreary jamboree a whirl. For everyone else, I’d say, instead of ‘accepting with pleasure,’ ‘decline,’ but without the regret, you’ll be better off for it as Table 19 is a pretty crappy time.
1.5 / 5 – Poor
Reviewed by S-Littner