Table 19 is a lighter-than-air confection about a girl who was broken up with via text and went from being her oldest friend’s maid of honor to one of the people at table 19 – the people invited through a sense of obligation but not actually expected to attend.
Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick) was to be Francie’s (Rya Meyers) maid of honor until Francie’s brother, Teddy (Wyatt Russell), broke up with her via text. As a result, she is stuck at the ‘random’ table with others who should have RSVP’d NO – but not before sending a gift from the wedding registry.
Her fellow randoms include the bride’s first nanny, Nanny Jo (June Squib, Oscar®-nominated for Nebraska) – who proves you should never slight a nanny; Renzo (Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel), a sad boy who just wants to be loved; Jerry and Bina Kepp (Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow), owners of a diner, and ex-con Walter (Stephen Merchant, The Office, Hello Ladies), who is just happy to not be in jail and getting a free meal.
Although ostensibly an ensemble piece, it’s really a showcase for Kendrick – who nails every line; hits every emotional beat and makes us believe it when the film veers from farce to drama.
Russell is also suitably douche as Eloise’s ex though – especially when he asks her not do something over the top and ruin the wedding reception – there is a good reason why he reacted the way he did. For Teddy, context is everything and we’re seeing him through Eloise’s eyes for most of the film.
If the rest of the characters aren’t as vividly drawn as Eloise, each gets a moment to shine – as when Bina turns out to have worn a blazer that is exactly the same as the reception’s wait staff (which plays into the film’s best sight gag when the blazer is donned by Merchant).
Bina and Teddy are not happy – with their marriage, with their business – and Kudrow and Robinson milk their scenes for both humor and pathos that was merely sketched in the script.
Revolori gets some of the film’s most uncomfortable moments when he takes some advice from Teddy and totally misunderstands its nuances – appalling at least two ladies at the reception.
Squibb shows uncharacteristic perception as one of this bunch – and has a secret that plays out as she becomes Grandma Pot.
Thomas Cocquerel (looking like a younger, better looking Dermott Mulroney) has a key few minutes as a man who could the perfect accomplice to make Teddy jealous – but really, nobody names their kid Huck, anymore…
Table 19 was written by Jay and Mark Duplass and there are moments where it leans in a mumblecore direction, but mostly it plays as farce (with another draft it might make a terrific stage play). Unfortunately, though, instead of getting really wicked – like the best farces – their script is a bit too gentle.
Director Jeffrey Blitz (Rocket Science – which first brought Kendrick to notice) keeps things moving but sometimes makes the film’s tonal shifts – from comedy to dram and back – too abrupt.
The result is a fun movie that could have been a great farce but couldn’t quite make up its mind to go for it.
It’s worth seeing for Kendrick’s standout performance and to watch a talented cast take a thin script and massage it into an entertaining movie.
Final Grade: B