FILM REVIEW: Table 19

Table 19 (Jeffrey Blitz, 2017)

If you ever find yourself watching Table 19 on Netflix or a similar streaming service, you may be inclined to give up twenty minutes in and choose something else. But keep in mind that it does significantly improve, even if it does take until the half way point to really get going. If you go the old-fashioned route of buying your ticket to Table 19 at a cinema, you are presumably more likely to persevere even when things look bleak. Unlike the many Anna Kendrick vehicles that bypass cinemas and go straight to digital, this is one film that will rely on its cinema attendance because for home viewers spoilt for choice, it takes too long to prove its worth.

The premise may be a little misleading to audiences who haven’t done their research (which quite fairly probably isn’t a huge proportion). Eloise (Anna Kendrick) is shunted as maid-of-honour when the bride’s brother (Wyatt Russell) dumps her via text message two months before the wedding. She decides to go anyway, finding herself on table 19, “the table that should have known to send regrets”. She is joined by the bride’s first nanny, Jo (June Squibb), unhappily married couple and owners of an Ohio diner, Bina (Lisa Kudrow) and Jerry (Craig Robinson), awkward teenager looking for love, Rezno (Tony Revolori), and “successful businessman” (or is he?) Walter (Stephen Merchant).

While a look at the poster/trailer may tell you this is perfect for a girls’ night out – Anna Kendrick, a wedding, and a hot Aussie Hemsworthian love interest (Thomas Cocquerel) – it’s not the light and peppy fluff you might expect. If, however, you’re aware that this is a film written by Jay and Mark Duplass (Jeff, Who Lives at Home), and directed by Jeffrey Blitz (director of one of Kendrick’s first films, Rocket Science) you may be less surprised to discover this is not standard romantic comedy fare.

The film has a shaky start, struggling to find its feet in early scenes where jokes regularly fall flat and the wedding comes across as a completely boring event. However, that’s sort of the point. This wedding IS boring and awkward for everyone at table 19, and we see it almost solely from their perspective. Once you can accept that you’re not going to witness a gorgeous wedding, and the action shifts past the ballroom, the film picks up speed.

There are a few surprises in the narrative to keep the film from being too predictable and these ultimately make the film a rewarding watch. It wraps up a bit too nicely – genuine human conflicts are played out that ultimately culminate in a series of happy endings – but it is simply a very sweet film. It’s also not anywhere near the worst film Anna Kendrick has done (I love her but she has been in some godawful films. The Voices, anyone?)

Kendrick’s fellow cast members are all enjoyable in their supporting roles. Together they make up an odd, eclectic bunch that surely no bride would really think would mesh well as a group. But satisfyingly, it turns out they do.

3 stars

This review was first published at Film Blerg.

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