Weddings are almost universally thought of as fun events, a party with family friends, plenty of food and drinks, dancing, and an overwhelming source of joy, where guests are delighted to celebrate a happy couple. However not all guests at a wedding, especially larger ones, are equal, and typically there are those who despite being invited, should have opted to send their regards, instead of R.S.V.Ping with their choice of chicken or fish. Table 19 stars Anna Kendrick as the long time friend/former maid of honor/ex of the best man who against any sense of rational judgment, decides to attend a wedding she really has no business going to.
The film sets up early on that Kendrick’s Eloise is conflicted as to whether or not to go to the wedding of her oldest friend, whose brother just dumped her, even after removing herself as Maid of Honor. When she ultimately decides to attend, she is relegated to what amounts to the reject table, a group who all were invited for one reason or another, but should have known better than to actual show up. Kendrick is paired with a rag-tag group of misfits consisting of a married couple that hate each who are business acquaintances of the bride’s father, the bride’s former nanny, the cousin, who is recently out of prison for embezzling money, and high school kid whose mother sent him, in the hopes he would get lucky. Unfortunately there isn’t really a story to this film as much as there is a series of events that take place over the course of the day, as Eloise tries to navigate the awkward social situation she puts herself in. The struggle with the events of the film is that for the most part, every single person makes the wrong decision every time. This makes for awkward conversations, and confrontations, that in the beginning are quirky, and comical because of how odd each of these people are, but as the film progresses, the constant stream of bad choices becomes more of a burden on the viewer. It also doesn’t help that with the exception of the nanny, and the teen, everybody in the film is a kind of a jerk. Eloise has more redeeming moments than the rest, but some of the things she does should have made it so that none of those people would talk to her again.
The film was written by the Duplass Brothers, Mark and Jay, so it isn’t all that surprising that many of characters in this film are unlikable, as that is a cornerstone of their previous work, flawed characters that know better, yet still mistake after mistake. The best scenes do not come until about halfway through, when the group from table 19 leave the wedding after a disastrous encounter with the best man, and actual start to gel as a group. The moments are the genuine human interactions that the Duplass Brothers excel at, and had the film featured more of these types of scenes, it would have made for a much better story. There are touching and sweet moments once everybody stops being a jerk for five minutes, and was nice to see these elements even though they weren’t as abundant as they should have been. While it seemed like the film has taken a positive turn for the home stretch, the ending portion is too convenient, and a little too predictable. There is also many smaller subplots that serve almost no purpose, including everything having to do with the bride’s mother, and the scenes involving a wedding crasher, which is out of place in the beginning, and also when the film starts the limp towards the finish line. Despite some cringe worthy awkwardness, the film is rather funny, not a laugh riot from start to finish or anything, but there are several stand out moments that generate genuine laughs. This coupled with some of the bleaker subject matter is a nice contrast, another staple of a Duplass film.
The cast for this film is impressive; and while the material doesn’t stand up as well as it could have, they all make the most of what they’re given. Kendrick conveys the emotion and the temperament for the character. The married couple are played by Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson whose arc is the most compelling of the side characters, as it goes from funny banter with serious undertones, to deeply serious throughout the film. Stephen Merchant plays the ex-con, and does so with his typical brand of awkward interactions. His attempts to get around letting slip that he is fresh out of prison are comical, but he isn’t given anything else to do other than that. The teenager, Tony Revolori, also isn’t really given anything to do, though a few of his attempts to interact with girls go as awkward and uncomfortable as expected, and are a little funny. The beacon of hope for the group though is the nanny, June Squibb, who from the first moment wants to feel included, and doesn’t believe that they are the misfit group they have been pigeonholed into. It is her that brings the group together, and she really is one of the better characters in the film.
When Table 19 succeeds, it is quite an enjoyable movie, with a sweetness that had the potential for something special. However when it falters, it sort of undoes any good that it has previously established. The film really is a mixed bag, and while it isn’t unwatchable, there is not enough here to make it something worth watching. It is a real shame, because the cast and the Duplass brothers are talented enough, to where this should have been an out of the park indie comedy hit, but instead is a somewhat ok film that most will probably try whenever it hits a streaming service.