DIR: Jeffrey Blitz • WRI: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass • PRO: Dan Cohen, P. Jennifer Dana, Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty, Mark Roberts • DOP: Ben Richardson • ED: Yana Gorskaya • DES: Timothy David O’Brien • MUS: John Swihart • CAST: Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant
The concept of Table 19 holds so much potential; six strangers from different walks of life, each seemingly stuck, each burdened with personal problems, are assigned to the undesirable overflow table at a wedding, and over the course of the day fold into each other and bond over shenanigans, storytelling and honest, emotional connection. Unfortunately, the potential fails to be projected, the imaginable possibilities just don’t play out, and the film winds up largely a talking heads picture – a very nice talking heads picture, but a talking heads picture nonetheless.
Eloise (Anna Kendrick), the oldest friend of the bride, finds herself at the 19th table after she drops out of maid of honour duties following her split with the bride’s brother Teddy (Wyatt Russell). She tells the other members of the table – the Kepps (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), a couple whose relationships seems not so much to be on the rocks but sinking into the waves, Jo (June Squibb), the gentle aging nanny of the bride, Walter (Stephen Merchant), a friendly yet socially awkward cousin, and Renzo (Tony Revolori), a young high-school student who is desperately search of a girl – that she attended only to prove that she was over the break-up. This swiftly proves untrue, as tense words with Teddy, and a conversation and dance with a mysterious stranger highlight the way in which Eloise appears to be running from her feelings. This frames the theme for the film, and together the group stumbles along as they attempt to face each other’s struggles as well as their own.
While there are some endearing moments – the group swapping life stories in a hotel room, Walter stealing a cake, everyone coming together to dance after the wedding is over and the staff are clearing up – they seem distant and diluted, perhaps because they’re slightly predictable, perhaps because they lack a certain emotive punch, and the straining guitar of the soundtrack does little to help this factor. There is also the overarching need for the narrative to recouple Eloise romantically which keeps tripping up the potential for isolated, poignant moments, with the endeavour of pairing off coming across clumsily and quite forced.
To put a finger to the feeling, the film has the exact effect of being told a funny story about an event in which you were not involved; it’s touching, but would only be exciting if you had been there, and from the outside looking in it just doesn’t have the same impact. The result is a picture in which nothing really happens – not in the careful, nuanced way in which this type of narrative normally plays out – but in a slow, sweet but slightly underwhelming level of mediocrity.
Sadhbh Ní Bhroin
12A See IFCO for details
Table 19 is released 7th April 2017