Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Cast: Anna Kendrick, June Squibb, Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori, Wyatt Russell
Plot: Table 19 is the ‘other’ table at a wedding, where the acquaintances and all-but strangers are sat, including Eloise (Kendrick), the ex-Maid of honour who was dumped by the best man.
Table 19 sounds like a decent set-up to a comedy. A bunch of misfits and oddballs are forced to spend an evening on a table together, knowing deep down that they are only at this particular table, because they don’t fit in anywhere else. We have the vague Facebook friends no one expected to RSVP ‘Yes’ (Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow), the socially awkward son of a friend of the family (Revolori), the nanny from a generation ago (Squibb) and a distant nephew no one wants there (Merchant). Thrown onto that table last minute is Anna Kendrick’s downtrodden Eloise. She had been the maid of honour of the bride, her oldest friend, a duty partially given to her, because she is dating the bride’s brother. However, in the final weeks of the wedding, she was dumped by text, forcing an awkward reshuffle. The consolation prize was an invitation, everyone hoped she would turn down, but out of a sense of stubbornness and a refusal to let go of the past, Eloise accepted. As a result, she finds herself lumped with the rejects of the wedding circle. Upon hearing this premise, especially with Pitch Perfect’s golden star, Kendrick, at the helm, you pretty much lean back and wait for the gags to come flying in.
But they don’t. Not really. Perhaps in a ‘more fitting than the writers intended’ way, the laughs that come with Table 19 are the polite chuckles that accompany a best man’s speech. Table 19 flirts with comedy but never truly embraces it. It probably is best suited to the comedy genre, because it does litter itself with a light seasoning of humour. Stephen Merchant’s nephew is actually fresh out of prison and his attempts to awkwardly steer around the subject are funny enough. Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow are comedy legends in their own right, so their dialogue has a natural air of charisma to it. Yes, this is hardly a movie starved of comedy, but we are far from the slapstick styling of a Judd Apatow vehicle. As the first half hour comes and goes, we feel like we are, like the title characters, in a wedding we are vaguely attached to, awkwardly hanging around, trapped in the event and praying that something exciting might happen. It is clear to see what attracted each actor to the project, especially Kudrow, who is likely grateful to be given a character that only slightly requires her comedic talents from Friends (great show, but with a nasty habit of trapping each actor in type-cast territory), and gives her some emotional depth that she can flex her acting muscles with. Ultimately, Table 19 is a film about six strangers that make idle chit-chat and as they do, their lives open up on camera in unexpected and tragic ways. But for a long time, the drama that director Blitz is more worried about than the laughs, just doesn’t cut it. Boredom sets in. While I appreciate that the rest of the reception is trapped in the distance, reduced to sharp cuts to loud wedding guest stereotypes, there are times that, like the guests, you wished we were hanging out with them instead, even if every wedding cliché has been done to death by the hundreds of wedding movies before. At least, routine can deliver on its promises. However, slowly, eventually, arguably too late for most movie-goers, the drama wins you over. There are some delightful twists peppered throughout Table 19. By twists, I do not mean Shyamalan levels of story-telling, but each character reveals sides to themselves not usually given to the stereotypes we thought they were. The second half of Table 19 is a pleasantly surprising affair, almost every character taking a direction we never expected they would take. The ending is a nice touch, full of moments that win endearing smiles. Yes, the good stuff comes too late in the day, but Table 19 wasn’t quite the wedding bust you were beginning to think it would be.
Final Verdict: Those expecting major laughs will be bored to tears, but strong performances and characterisation make Table 19 a hidden gem for the patient.