Film Review: “Table 19”

Fantasies of a typical wedding reception bring to mind neatly lined tables, a jolly open bar, a hopefully competent MC and plenty of live music to keep one rocking throughout the night. It is a time where fond memories are supposed to be formed, an escape from the unpleasantries of life. Suppose that one takes the guests whom the bride and groom know least and places them at the same table. Does this result in compelling drama and guffaw-inducing shenanigans? Not so. “Table 19” tries to be witty and endearing but is ultimately a subpar attempt at a dramedy. There are a few clever zingers and mildly entertaining spectacles that make it watchable, but it does not make up for the static cast and the film’s bungled themes.

There’s very little to discern from the hobbled fellows of the titular table. The audience knows just as much about them as the bride and groom. What the audience does learn about the protagonists is that they have no personal depth or distinct nuances. At most, they want to fulfill a personal ambition that this wedding provides the opportunity for. Renzo Eckberg (Tony Revolori) is a socially inept adolescent seeking his first hookup. His desires receive no explanation, and this aspect of his character is hardly utilized. Of the six women he interacts with at the wedding, he only flirts with (and fails to impress) two. He accomplishes nothing else of note in the film, outside of looking quaint as he follows his odd tablemates. Then there’s Jerry and Bina Kepp (Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow), whose marriage is a combination of half-vitriolic, half-jestful bickering. There’s also a former nanny and an ex-convict at the table, who are just as unexceptional as their fellow guests.

The exception to this lack of characterization is Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick), the former maid-of-honor who fell out with the brother of the bride (Wyatt Russell). Attending the wedding alone was an emotionally wrenching decision for her. She could potentially (and inappropriately) humiliate her ex, his new girlfriend and herself in front the newlyweds, a possibility that she struggles to prevent herself from initiating. Impulsiveness naturally leads to bad decisions, so McGarry ropes the other guests into helping her cope (as well as deal a bit of vengeance to her ex). The ensuing commotion is supposed to be sympathetic, with a touch of light-hearted mishaps. Yet the unimpressive cast and directionless plot earn no applause. The rascals of Table 19 move from awkwardly asking a young girl to dance to confronting McGarry’s estranged ex to comprehending both perspectives of the Kepps’ strained marriage. The multiple unfolding stories are underdeveloped, and what the audience is presented with is little more than a snapshot of the crew’s world.

Thankfully, “Table 19” somehow finds a way to amuse. For all of its mishmashed subplots and uninteresting dialogue, the film cracks several clever gags at which one can’t help but smile. The father of the groom closes his toast without foresight, wishing the newlyweds a happy ending comparable to that of Romeo and Juliet. A tense argument between McGarry and her ex ends with a mood-swinging crash as the wedding cake is trampled upon by the members of Table 19, the incriminating cream and cake staining their dresses. The tumultuous day causes guest Jo (June Squibb) to casually mention some recreational hallucinogens she brought along; the older members of the table gladly join her in consuming it. It’s difficult to find anything else memorable about “Table 19” besides its comedy. Whatever witticism it has, however, it executes admirably.

Still, “Table 19” is, on the whole, a dissatisfactory presentation. A premise along the lines of “The Breakfast Club” at a wedding reception has capacity to be both heartwarming and hilarious. The film is more of the latter, a shortcoming that leaves much to be desired. A comedy about a funeral is far more engaging.

Grade: C+
Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori, Wyatt Russell, Amanda Crew
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Rated: PG-13

Image Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures