“Table 19” starts-out as a subtle satire on weddings and the extravagant receptions that often accompany them. In the opening scene, Eloise (played by Anna Kendrick) struggles to decide whether to check “Accepts with Pleasure” or “Declines with Regret” on a wedding invitation. She changes her mind multiple times – and we’ll eventually learn why.
We then meet the other five core characters who are also invited to and decide to attend this wedding, including high schooler Rezno (played by “The Grand Budapest Hotel”‘s Tony Revolori) and the childhood nanny of the bride, Jo (June Squibb from “Nebraska”).
Director Jeffrey Blitz decides to skip the formalities of the ceremony and get right to the party. Guests are next seen walking to the banquet hall – “Two miles down and we’re almost there” says Craig Robinson’s Jerry Kepp to wife Bina (Lisa Kudrow). They own a diner. And then there’s Walter (Stephen Merchant), who, in a very funny scene, tries to avoid telling the Kepps what he really does for a living.
They’re all seated at Table 19 – as far away from the happy couple as you could be, tucked away in a distant corner of the room. In a rapid-fire sequence, Eloise explains the groups seated at the other 18 tables. How does she know all of this? Turns-out she co-planned the wedding, since her oldest friend just happens to be the bride. She was supposed to be Maid of Honor, but when her boyfriend (the Best Man) broke-up with her two months ago, that title was given to his new girlfriend. I think you’re starting to see this film’s formula: place a group of quirky, eclectic characters together in one location – and sit back and enjoy their funny and insightful interactions.
Unfortunately, following the promising set-up, “Table 19” walks down Melodrama Aisle and never looks back. At less than 90 minutes, it packs-in detailed storylines involving all six of the main characters. You really get to know these people – maybe a little too much. And outside of a clever running bit involving Kudrow and the waiters, the tone significantly shifts from light comedy to relatively heavy relationship drama in the second half. The script, co-written by Mark and Jay Duplass, includes multiple dialogue-intense arguments that take the story around in circles.
“Table 19” also has a difficult time deciding what kind of a film it wants to be. There’s definitely an indie vibe, but many of the themes are quite conventional. The film’s saving grace is the cast. The six leads are all quite likable. Kendrick and Squibb’s characters in particular exude a strong bond. Margo Martindale also has a role – as Rezno’s mother – though we never see her on screen. Only her voice is heard, either in the background or over the phone. It’s the ensemble that makes “Table 19” watchable, helping to overcome a separated script.
If someone asks you if you want to see “Table 19” my advice is to say “I Do”, but first get a prenup.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Table 19” gets a C+.
Running Time: 87 min.