Table 19 wants to be a memorably hilarious comedy. Except for the times when it wants to be a cold, hard look at real life drama. It’s an onscreen marriage that never truly comes together making for a wasted opportunity of an intriguing concept.
At some point everyone’s been to a wedding and stuck at an awkward, weird table. That’s relatable for a wide cross section of audiences. Played out the proper way, this concept could work for 87 minutes without feeling like an extended one-note sketch.
After much deliberation, Eloise (Anna Kendrick) decides she will attend her childhood friend’s wedding. The only catch? Her pal’s brother is her ex, Teddy (Wyatt Russell), who dumped her via text after two years together. Instead of a seat of honor, Eloise is stuck at the ‘loser’ table with family business friends Jerry and Bina Kepp (Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow); childhood nanny Jo (June Squibb), desperate virgin Rezno (Tony Revolvori) and weird cousin Walter (Stephen Merchant).
While she thought she’d made a clean break, Eloise still has unresolved feelings for Teddy. It’s obvious early on that Kendrick is better than this role. She has an inviting, charming demeanor, but it’s wasted on a bad romance subplot. That’s also not aided by the fact Kendrick has far more obvious chemistry with Thomas Cocquerel, who plays the cliché dashing better option.
Screenwriting brother duo Jay and Mark Duplass (Your Sister’s Sister) rarely go for simple comedy. They favor exploring all the quirks and complexities of the human condition. The brothers could have gone a number of ways with the film — a romance; an outright quirky comedy or a drama tackling serious issues. Any could have worked, but trying to mash them all together in one film leads to a fractured and inconsistent film. Table 19 plays out like watching three films at once vying for your attention.
Kendrick isn’t alone in being better than the material. Kudrow and Thompson have a decent subplot, but it frequently comes on the heels of fun moments, making them the film’s buzzkills. Merchant (Logan) goes full tilt awkward providing the film’s most humorous moments. Walter is so clueless and childlike he feels like part of a different movie — one that works double time for every laugh.
The greatest trick Table 19 pulls off is providing the illusion that it’s not bad merely due to its quality cast.
Director Jeffrey Blitz seems equally confused as to the film’s tone. Blitz fares best at the more comedic moments. The serious scenes come across too manufactured and melodramatic. It’s hard to take the characters seriously when the previous scene they’re doing slapstick comedy.
The big emotional moments don’t feel especially earned either. They have an artificial resolution that’s come about as the film reaches its conclusion.
Table 19 is full of wasted promise. Don’t pull up a chair with this one. Best to leave your invitation lost in the mail.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight