Review: Table 19
Ahh, Table 19. See, at Pop Culture Beast, our goal is to share those music, stage and film offerings, anything fun, that might otherwise pass you Beasts by, and vice versa. Like, we know you’re up to date on the latest Marvel blockbuster offering, but hey, did you see Lady MacBeth? Yes, Taylor Swift is selling out stadia globally, but what about seeing St Lenox or Dar Williams? We love a big old summer “thing”, but we might just lean towards talking about the smaller efforts so they also get the attention they deserve.
Like this movie. Big stars, ish, but small movie. So have you heard of it? We hadn’t, weird, but who knows, hey, sometimes, a studio had big plans, and a film was actually meant to be wide release, but for whatever reason, maybe legal tie-ups or contract issues, there’s no big push. Could be a hidden gem, could be swept under the rug for a reason.
Table 19 has so much promise
Rug sweeper. There is so much talent wasted here that it is annoying. Table 19 stars the always reliable Anna Kendrick and a solid supporting cast, written by the clever Duplass Brothers, it ventures into usual goldmine of either comedy or drama or both via the world of “wedding movie”. It draws you in, flirts with dark comedy, then derails into a horror fest that befuddles the mind.
Oh, wait, no, not proper slasher horror, gosh, that would have been a relief, and not weird noir psychodrama horror, either: let me repeat, that would have been a relief. A mad man with an axe, wildly swinging at these Chicken Kiev-snarfing reception attendees, now that would have made me perk up.
Table 19 wastes great cast
With shades of Four Weddings and a Funeral’s opening, our main players are introduced, including a couple played by the odd pairing of (yet again) uptight Lisa Kudrow and a (practically trademarked) Chilled AF Craig Robinson; a young loner, Tony Revolori of Grand Budapest Hotel, and more, and they receive their invitations to varying degrees of enthusiasm. Single gal Eloise, played by Kendrick, dithers over her RSVP card, using a pen to first strongly check yes, then no – which on expensive vellum is a mistake not easily corrected – then in despair, half-burns the card, before sealing it in the return envelope, importantly along with her social fate. This occasion is going to prove as fun for Eloise as a wedding conga is for any sober person, but as she is Anna Kendrick, we are on her side. For now.
The admittedly clever opening credits lay out the diplomatic minefield that is assigned guest seating at any wedding, and erk, seems our Eloise is stuck at the corner deadzone on the official chart denoted “randoms” – Table 19.
So far, so good, but sorry, we are only minutes into Table 19, and if you’re thinking Four Weddings, or Wedding Crashers, oh, no no. Think more Rachel at the Wedding, but less cheery. But, not. If still watching, I must advise you to savour the goodwill you may now have. Prepare to cut losses after Eloise prettys up and walks in to this surreal daytime – 10am? – reception that, through bizarre plotting and lazy scripting, will somehow last what seems like a fortnight and like C+C Music Factory, will make you go hmmm.
Blitz has been better
Director Jeffery Blitz’s earlier work got him an Oscar nod for the great doc Spellbound, and he has solid tv credentials, and the busy DuPlass brothers (Room 104, and come on, lots more) are the writers, and they’ve got June Squibb acting up a storm for goodness sake, and Stephen Merchant is also at the titular table. Do the Hollywood math and you’re not off – this, you might think, this going to be solid.
Here is where things break down.
We can nitpick about the weird world of this wedding where dancing starts before the dinner, or the unseen bride ignores the key people in her past and present – or we can be kind and give points for not doing the comedy-go-to hideous bridesmaids dresses (Hollywood, can we be done with this trope?). What we can’t ignore that this bunch of misfits would never have been invited, or accepted, or if either, perhaps in an act of charity, they would be
monitored by a concerned cousin or even a social worker.
The group of exiled “guests” include chatty Squibb as the bride’s former nanny, though no one in the family speaks to her so, why invited, Kudrow and Robinson the hostile married couple who have career issues, I guess, and Stephen Merchant with an acting style that of a nervous animal with naughty intentions, seated here as a disturbing possible relative I’d avoid like a warm shrimp. So far so weird, and in a better film that should have bonded the rest of the table in a “wtf” eye roll, but then we have Revolori playing a character that is actually even more upsetting than Merchant’s, a openly horny and socially awkward loner urged on by his on-the-cellphone mother to use the wedding to hook up. He goes about this in a way that would get anyone turfed out. Rounding it out is Eloise, and guess what, she has a secret.
Everyone has some fairly unlikeable traits, but not in a tolerable way, and director Blitz stages the early scenes so broadly he must be gambling we’ll stick around for the growth of someone, anyone, some inner motivation, so we all say, aha! That’s so… err… relatable?
Weddings come in many styles and flavors, okay, but here’s where you will surely agree that this wedding is written by the lone Earth person who’s never sat at an awkward social table of any sort, but especially nuptials. Somehow, in Table 19, the early tense plot point is when someone sets off Eloise by asking the crazy probing question – ready for it – so, how do you know the bride and groom? Kendrick reels from the inquisition. I’ve been to weddings in a few countries and celebrating three religions, and you’ll probably agree no matter what or where or who- that is always the first question to anyone you don’t know at a wedding. Bride or groom? Bride or flipping groom!?
See, Eloise was dumped by her boyfriend, the best man so, and, instead of friends working out some sort of… well, she was kicked out of the wedding party, yet still invited, and exiled to the randoms zone, yet still showed up. Wow.
Her confession and simmering anger makes her the quasi-leader of the unwashed, uniting them in hating the wedding enough to start a table-wide rebellion that, this won’t spoil much, takes the group out of the banquet hall to the adjacent hotel. And… into another film altogether, that some reviews have compared to The Breakfast Club.
Sorry, Table 19 is not really The Breakfast Club
As reality-stretching as the 80s John Hughes detention-bonding fave might have been, those were teens who all admitted they were a mess, and more importantly, they had to be there. Table 19’s unpleasant characters, now moved off-site from the world’s longest wedding reception and unimaginatively “bonding” over weed and dire confessions, are not trapped highschoolers. They are adults. With lives. And, crucially, cars. Cars that could take them out of this mess of their own making.
I suggest you do the same.
More PCB Movie Coverage:
John and Yoko and Some Truth
A quick Mini-Review of Crazy Rich Asians
She’s not just the Queen – Unsane starring Claire Foy
A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.