It is said that director Jeffrey Blitz took nearly two years to get the screenplay down for his film Table 19, and it is apparent with the many directions that this film takes that he was likely in a few different places as he tried to piece it together. However, is that enough to water down this wedding focused dramatic comedy?
The film’s main star is Anna Kendrick, who plays former maid of honor turn shunned guest Eloise, as she has been relegated to the titular table 19. The guests at this wedding have been grouped by a theme: the family at one table, dad’s army buddies at another, and as for table 19 – an entire table of people they felt obligated to invite but had hoped they would R.S.V.P. with “no.”
Rounding off her table mates are recently paroled felon Walter, played by Stephen Merchant, miserably married couple Bina and Jerry, played by Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson, the bride and best man’s former nanny Jo, played by June Squibb, and awkward, desperately trying to get laid son who is a of a friend of the family Rezno, played by Tony Revolori.
Therein lies one of the movie’s major problems; it has too many people to focus on and not enough time dedicated to each of their individual dilemmas. As a result, when the film does reach its catharsis, it feels as though it was rushed to get there without a proper resolution for a majority of them. With hardly a two hour run-time, there is little time to introduce the characters and their problems. The movie does, however, get points for trying to show all of them and have the actors and actresses convey their emotions as opposed to a series of clunky expositional dialogues.
The acting, especially from Kudrow, Robinson, and Squibb was wholly enjoyable. What’s more, the film never really beat the audience over the head with any major points or problems, but it never really felt as though things were just being glossed over, either. If the audience is really paying attention and not just waiting for its star to make her next appearance on screen, they will be treated to some of the best comedic timing of the last few years.
The major positive takeaway from this movie is how subtle it can really be. We find out very early on that Kendrick’s character is pregnant. Instead of making that the entire focus on the movie, something a lesser film would run with to get as much exposure out of its star as possible, this instead focuses on all of the relationships between the characters of table 19. Later, we find out a large reason for the misery in the marriage between Kudrow and Robinson, as well as an explanation for the attitude of Squibb’s character quirks. Each of these could have been compelling to demand nearly half of the film in screen time, and yet they were discussed and the characters moved on as needed; much like how real life can be.
There is little doubt that Table 19 will be absent from most critic’s top ten lists come December, nor will it be recognized by the Academy for any underlying greatness. That said, this was an entertaining film that made a lot of subtle jabs at the many tropes and characters prevalent at every wedding, while never seeming mean spirited or bitter about the experience. That is what can be taken away from this film: there is a lot of love in it.
There are a lot of nods to the Hughes brat pack movies, but nothing so overt that it is anything but a loving homage. Despite everything in its favor, however, the pacing is just a bit too rushed for as much as they tried to include, and the tone of the film can be a little too jarring. Much like weddings themselves, there is too much love and effort in it to really call this film “bad,” but the audience won’t be clamoring to go to another one like it in the future.