In my life, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to avoid weddings for the most part. I’ve only been to two in my entire life and I didn’t really know either one of the people I was attending for, rather just being strung along by my parents for the sake of saving money on a babysitter. Still, I do fondly remember eating cake at the tables placed squarely in the corner of the ballrooms in which they took place in, which might have well have been labeled table 19. Whether or not we’ve experienced the pain of this at weddings, we’ve all been in those awkward situations where we know that we don’t belong, whether it be a party, funeral, or birthday dinner, we’ve all been the odd one out. “Table 19” seeks to explore the nature of these events and what would happen if the strangers placed at said table were brought together through a series of quirky, if unfortunate events.
And surprisingly, this film doesn’t suck as much as these situations do.
Eloise (Anna Kendrick) is an attendee of the wedding of Francie and Douglas, even after resigning as the maid of honor after being broken up with by Francie’s brother, Teddy (Wyatt Russell). Arriving to the wedding, she realizes that she is stuck at table 19, the last table filled with rejects of the wedding that hold little connection to the wedding party. At the table, there is: Jo (June Squibb), Francie’s first nanny, Renzo (Tony Revolori), a lonely teenager looking to get laid, Walter (Stephen Merchant), Francie’s ex-convict cousin, and Bina (Lisa Kudrow) & Jerry (Craig Robinson), an unhappily married couple who know the bride’s father through work. As the wedding goes on, Eloise realizes that her presence is beginning to cause trouble, to which her table of rejects take into their own hands, forming a new family from the ashes of another one.
“Table 19” is just as fluffy and schmaltzy as it sounds, but it’s a surprisingly sweet and charming little comedy that’s as harmless as it is shallow. Yet, the merits of this film rest squarely on the backs of its impressive cast, who find charming quirks out of every character. Kendrick is as good as ever as Eloise, playing up a bit of her signature quirkiness while never beating us over the head with it like many actresses do when given the room to allow their own personality to shine through. Squibb, Revolori, Merchant, Robinson and Kudrow also all deliver good, if restrained performances. One of the best things about “Table 19” is the clear and distinct personalities of each of the characters, and while this could be written off as caricature work, but the personalities of these characters are all unique and quirky (but not annoying) enough to rest on it through the film.
At 87 minutes, “Table 19” is a short film, which doesn’t leave much in the way for true cinematic depth, but the goal of this film is not to woo audiences with their deep portrayals of the beauty of human life à la “Moonlight,” but rather to enchant audiences with its wit and charm for a short time before returning to the real world. This is the type of film that you probably won’t return to time and time again, but it’s the type of film that one can turn to on a bad day to cheer them up, which is all it seeks to do. The film currently holds a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes (though it would be ironic if it held a 19%), which doesn’t particularly surprise me, as this isn’t the type of film to blow cynics out of their seats, but for someone who can appreciate the art of a feel-good movie for what it is, as well as appreciating that of serious cinema, “Table 19” won my heart.
From the minds of Jay and Mark Duplass, the undisputed kings of indie cinema today, it’s a bit surprising that “Table 19” is something they would’ve come up with, but their charm is there. “Table 19” starts a bit dull, not giving us much insight into the lives of the characters we’re supposed to care about, but as the film progresses and the movie moves beyond just the wedding reception, “Table 19” gains its footing in both charm and whatever perceived depth the Duplass Brothers wanted to go with here.
Directed by Jeffrey Blitz, “Table 19” is a simple, attractive film that doesn’t do much in the way of cinematic splendor, but it’s far from a mess. Beyond that, the direction of the film does nothing out of the ordinary to actually merit much discussion over it. It’s not great, it’s nowhere near bad, but it’s fine.
I’ll be 100% honest in saying that “Table 19” tugged at my heartstrings and won me over really quickly. This is a sweetly charming film that does really good work with its extensive, talented, diverse cast. It’s a film that knows what it is and knows that it isn’t going to be the next Best Picture winner, but rather a 90 minute distraction at the movies that will put a smile on the face of anyone who doesn’t feel too good for the material “Table 19” puts on the table, so to speak. In a time of constant arguments and sad stories pervading our entire universe, who am I to complain when a movie comes along that makes me smile for nearly the entire runtime? God knows it’s rare, even if the product that does it is imperfect.
Directed by: Jeffrey Blitz
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori, Wyatt Russell, Amanda Crew.
Runtime: 87 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, drug use, language, and some brief nudity.
Now playing in select Charlotte-area theaters.
Fox Searchlight Pictures presents, in association with 3311 Productions, a 21 Laps production, “Table 19”