Anna Kendrick Lisa Kudrow Margo Martindale Craig Robinson
Tony Revolori June Squibb Stephen Merchant Wyatt Russell
This is a strange movie that doesn’t quite get off the ground. It’s rather formulaic, as in quick alterations between humor, anger/meanness, tenderness, and love. It tries to be funny by being shocking, but the jokes often fall flat, or are even embarrassing—as when a young man asks a girl he’s never met to go out with him and marry him…and, by the way, he has a big penis. Stumbling, pratfalls, and bumping into things and wrecking things are likewise inserted to be funny. There must be at least five or six people who fall down, and we’re supposed to laugh. And the fighting between couples; this gets very tiresome.
The film takes place at a wedding, and opens with Eloise (Kendrick) vacillating between accepting or declining the invitation. This is actually one of the more clever scenes showing real anguish and ambivalence; Kendrick can be very funny. She is right to be torn because she’s bound to run into her ex-boyfriend Teddy (Russell), the brother of the bride with a new girlfriend. She wants to go because she is a long-term friend of the bride, and was even helping with wedding plans when she and Teddy broke up. Of course, in the end she decides to go, and is seated at Table 19. We’re informed ahead of time that this is a table of misfits.
The colorful make-up of the guests at Table 19 is a great set-up for a comedy. Along with Eloise, there is the former nanny of the bride and her brother, Jo (Squibb); unhappily married owners of a diner (Kudrow and Robinson); an ex-con (Merchant) who is the uncle of the bride, and a young man (Revolori) desperately wanting to score, inappropriately egged on by his helicopter mother (Martindale) whom we only hear over the telephone. This table is supposed to form the essence of the comedy, and some of their routines are as madcap as they’re supposed to be, but the filmmakers (writers Jay and Mark Duplass and director Jeffrey Blitz) never quite succeed in their aim to make this an all-out screwball comedy. Which is a shame, since the cast is filled with talented actors.
Table 19 succeeds when it illuminates the back-stories of the characters, and we feel compassion for what they’ve gone through. This is especially true of the ex-con when we hear what he did wrong, which is both funny and extremely touching at the same time. Merchant pulls this off like the pro that he is. Revolori (a hit in The Grand Budapest Hotel) plays his part extremely well, but the lines he’s given, which are supposed to be funny, simply aren’t. Kudrow and Robinson are fine actors, but there is no chemistry between them, and it’s puzzling how the two characters could have gotten into a marriage. Kendrick also does well, but it’s a role she has done many times before in playing characters that I suspect are very similar to her as a person. I would like to see her pick up the challenge of roles that will be out of character for her, proving her great acting abilities.
Table 19 is mildly entertaining, but doesn’t achieve the sidesplitting screwball comedy to which it aspires.