A Real Mixed Bag of Comedy and Drama, ‘Table 19’ is Half of a Good Time

GameStop, Inc.

Table 19

I’m too bitter and cynical to have too much fun at weddings. If not for an open bar, I might not even attend. If I were attending a wedding in the near future I assume that I would be seated alongside the characters of the new comedy Table 19, a collection of misfits and strangers placed together at a wedding reception due to their lacking favor with the bride and groom. This comedy written by Mark and Jay Duplass and directed Jeffrey Blitz has moments of hilarity scattered between a story that is drenched in sentimentality. Table 19 is a movie with a conflicted personality, working best when it’s aiming for laughs instead of attempting to touch the heart.

Eloise (Anna Kendrick) is reluctantly attending the wedding of her oldest friend. She was set to be the maid of honor for the ceremony but that all collapsed when her boyfriend Teddy (Wyatt Russell), the bride’s brother, dumped via text two months ago. At the wedding reception, Eloise is sharing a table with distant acquaintances of the bride and groom: Jo (June Squibb), the former nanny of the bride; Jerry (Craig Robinson) and Bina Kepp (Lisa Kudrow), a married couple that owns a diner and is distant friends with the parents of the groom; Renzo (Tony Revolori), a horny teen with an overbearing mother; and Walter (Stephen Merchant), a lanky ex-con recently released from prison. Eloise has to contend with her jealousy at Teddy’s new relationship with Nikki (Amanda Crew), who has also replaced her as maid of honor. Meanwhile, Walter struggles to act normal; Renzo desperately seeks female attention; Jo has to contend with her bitterness towards the children she once watched; and Jerry and Bina have to thaw the icy bitterness that has come to define their marriage all while surrounded by partying wedding guests and ‘80s music.

The screenplay by the Duplass Brothers is much more adept at setting up each of the character at the eponymous Table 19 than figuring out what to do with them once their quirks and wants have been established. Director Jeffrey Blitz is good at setting up and executing gags, and this is very noticeable in the film’s earlier scenes, especially the raucous opening. Where Blitz falters is that same discipline isn’t present in setting up what are meant to be the film’s key emotional reveals, most of which are obvious and then they each linger well past the point of any effectiveness. It all culminates in an uneven flow to Table 19, a flow that makes you wish it just aspired to be a pure comedy without the ineffective dramatic elements.

For the most part, the cast of Table 19 delivers sturdy work. Perhaps the weakest link of the leading cast is its leading lady Anna Kendrick, who brings her trademark young woman trying to have it all amidst an array of personal issues and little else. It’s really the wild card characters that steal the spotlight of the film, with Stephen Merchant and Tony Revolori getting the best gags and lines. The lanky Merchant can’t help but be awkward on the screen, and his ex-con Walter is the film’s most reliably hilarious character due to his bizarre demeanor working in conjunction with his unusual style sense. The young Revolori gets to push the envelope in his inept attempts to court female companionship. It’s not a coincidence that the film’s stand out characters are the ones unburdened with the film’s saccharine sentimentality.

It’s at the end that Table 19 squanders all of the goodwill that its effective comedy scenes have earned with a succession of emotional reveals and what seems to be a never-ending parade of would-be endings. The resolution to each of the film’s serious quandaries are resolved in a strikingly obvious way. If you don’t know what’s coming you’ve probably never seen a movie before. And just when you think the movie is over it unleashes another barrage of would-be endings in what must be the most frustrating final 15 minutes of a movie in recent memory.

There are enough laughs within Table 19 that the film isn’t a total waste, but it never lives up to its potential due to its alternating aspects of comedy and drama. This movie has all the makings of a classic with its talented cast and relatable premise but it stumbles when it should be soaring. When it’s aiming for laughs Table 19 is quite funny. When it’s aiming to tug on the heartstrings Table 19 is quite unbearable. I guess in that regard it’s quite like attending a wedding. It only proves why I don’t like attending weddings.

Table 19
  • Overall Score
3

Summary

An uneven blend of comedy and drama, Table 19 works best when aiming for laughs because it squanders all of its goodwill when it aims to tug on the heartstrings.

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