UK Release Date: 7th April 2017
Runtime: 87 minutes
Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Writer: Jeffrey Blitz
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Wyatt Russell, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, Stephen Merchant, June Squibb, Tony Revolori, Amanda Crew, Thomas Cocquerel
Synopsis: When she is dumped by the bride’s brother, a former maid of honour finds herself demoted to the far corner of the wedding meal – at a table full of misfits.
Weddings have been mined to within an inch of their lives for comedy, whether it’s by every stand-up comedian to ever walk on to a stage, by dozens of farce comedy movies and even by TV sitcoms like Gavin and Stacey. You’d be forgiven for thinking that there isn’t a single element of the nuptial experience that hasn’t been pored over with a fine-tooth comb. With that in mind, Table 19 is saddled with the stench of unoriginality before its opening titles even appear on the screen. The film is an utterly bizarre experience, with flashes of undeniable genius in amongst the desperately generic story beats.
Eloise (Anna Kendrick) was all set to be maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding, but things quickly became awkward when she was dumped in messy fashion by Teddy (Wyatt Russell) – the bride’s brother. She finds herself relegated to the eponymous corner table, along with the bride’s Nanny Jo (June Squibb), squabbling married couple Jerry and Bina (Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow), convicted fraudster Walter (Stephen Merchant) and unlucky-in-love teen Renzo (Tony Revolori). When it all becomes a little too awkward for Eloise and she has to leave the ceremony, her equally shunned group of new acquaintances come along for the ride.
There’s very little room to argue that Table 19 is in any way a good film. In fact, it’s barely even competent. Jeffrey Blitz‘s script has no idea whether it’s intended to be a comedy with dramatic moments or a drama film with a couple of gags sprinkled through it. Often, a scene plays out in entirely serious fashion, only for a character to fall over at random in a depressingly facile attempt to underscore the film with a laugh every now and then. The plot is completely all over the place, with implausible character decisions at play and Thomas Cocquerel‘s potential love interest simply disappearing halfway through.
The performances in Table 19 are subject to the same jarring tonal mismatch as the plotting. Merchant and Revolori, who was so brilliant in The Grand Budapest Hotel, are very much playing broad comedy. Merchant is the comedic highlight, but he was way better in British wedding comedy I Give it a Year a few years ago. On the other hand, though, Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow are playing hardcore marital drama and Wyatt Russell is… well, I don’t quite know what he’s trying to do.
Despite the rank incompetence of Blitz’s script and the utter mess that the performances seem to create, there is an oasis at the centre of Table 19 in the shape of Anna Kendrick. She has the unique talent of being the shining light of every film in which she appears and she even made a decent wedding movie last year in the shape of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. In Table 19, she gives a performance of rage and comedy, but also of immensely relateable vulnerability. She spends most of the movie transforming chicken shit into chicken salad to delightful effect and her luminous performance is almost enough to rescue the film – even in amongst the hideously implausible romantic gestures of the third act.
Kendrick’s performance, though, is not enough to save this film from its descent into pure cliché. Every beat and joke is visible from a mile away, whether it’s the childhood toy that June Squibb mentions approximately once every eight seconds or Chekhov’s wedding cake placed right in the entranceway for no reason other than a ‘hilarious’ farce moment late in the film. Table 19 is a movie that never escapes from the sheer incompetence of its script, despite the laudable attempts of its performers to elevate the material. If this film were on a wedding seating plan, it would definitely be as far from the top table as possible.
Pop or Poop?
Wedding comedies are pretty easy to get right, despite the ample competition in the field, but Table 19 completely fluffs it like a drunk uncle attempting to nail the moves to Gangnam Style. Anna Kendrick is masterful in the central role and those around her try their best, but this is a bafflingly incompetent piece of work in almost every way.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.