Directed by Jeffrey Blitz. Starring Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori, Wyatt Russell, Amanda Crew, Thomas Cocquerel. (2017, PG-13, 87 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 3, 2017
Table 19 plays like a concept in search of a movie. Granted, the concept is pretty good – a batch of six strangers bond at a wedding when they are seated at the losers’ table, Table 19 – but the film’s execution is about as memorable as the bridal bouquet. It’s a delicate comedy, full of tonal shifts that miss their cues or get lost in the exposition. The screenplay by Mark and Jay Duplass would have been in better hands, perhaps, if the prolific creative duo had directed it themselves, since the story’s tone skates on the tenuous line between comedy and tragedy, evidenced in such Duplass brothers’ work as their TV show Togetherness or the features Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Instead, Table 19 is directed by Jeffrey Blitz, who first made his mark in the industry with his Academy Award-nominated documentary Spellbound – which, to be honest, also identified both the anguish and the humor that surrounds a spelling-bee competition. Blitz, however, brings no visual snap to Table 19’s proceedings, and maintains a distant relationship with its characters.
Anna Kendrick anchors the movie as Eloise, who was to be the maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding until she was dumped by her boyfriend Teddy (Russell, the pothead ballplayer in Everybody Wants Some!!), who happens to be the bride’s brother. Still bitter about the breakup, Eloise attends the wedding stag, where she takes a seat at the losers’ table, composed of other guests who would have never been missed had they declined to attend. A colorful assortment of oddballs, they include the bride’s childhood nanny (Squibb), a bickering married couple (Kudrow and Robinson), a white-collar criminal (Merchant) who’s a cousin of the bride, and a randy but sweet teenager who just wants to get laid (Revolori, best known as Zero in The Grand Budapest Hotel). It’s a strong complement of actors, but Blitz does little to help them distinguish their characters. Thus, the believability of any growth or new understandings experienced by the characters is undermined by their previous colorlessness. Ever since her Oscar-nominated breakthrough performance in Up in the Air, Anna Kendrick has been at a loss to find roles equal to her talent. (Kendrick previously starred in Blitz’s first narrative feature Rocket Science). Ultimately, despite a good premise and excellent actors, Table 19 is just not worth the RSVP.