The almost-genius irony about Table 19 is that you’re watching a rom-com about attending a wedding you really don’t want to attend, while watching a rom-com that you really don’t want to attend — yet there you are, sitting in that seat, forced to listen to the speeches, to pretend to laugh at the bad jokes along with easier-to-please audience members, and to eat the mediocre food (JK – I love u popcorn & Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Pieces). Unfortunately this is neither an art-house drama nor Inception: instead, everything in this film is as on-the-nose-trite as can be, and we’re all nauseatingly privy to it while the reception blares on.
Mark and Jay Duplass are given “Story Credit” on Table 19, but, as IndieWire noted, “Table 19 is based on a story that Jay and Mark Duplass sold long before they were indie royalty.” I can only imagine the full extent of their involvement with this film was an email, or maybe even a text, to writer/director Jeffrey Blitz that read “Hey man, how about a rom-com about a wedding?”
Other than that basic premise, a forest/lakeside setting, and a bluegrass-y soundtrack, I couldn’t come up with a trace of a Duplass brother: neither their trademark heartfelt sincerity nor their naturalistic humor appeared once. And I kept looking – by god, did I keep looking. I had plenty of time, you see, because I was doing everything I could to keep my mind off of how phenomenally trifling every choice Anna Kendrick makes is, and yet here she is, starring in another movie. Why, Hollywood? Why.
The gist of the film: Eloise (Anna Kendrick)’s been dumped by her best friend’s brother mere months before her friend’s wedding. She as the Maid of Honor, and the bride’s oldest friend, but thanks to the breakup she was released from her Maid of Honor duties (nice friend!) and relegated to the furthest table from the action, with all the other losers “who should have known to RSVP no, but not before sending a gift off the registry.” Seated at this Siberia of banquet tables along with Eloise is a cacophony of “colorful weirdos”: the bride’s childhood nanny, a family member who embezzled money from his own uncle, a married couple who also owns a diner, and a barely-pubescent nerd bearing a fur bowtie and no social skills. A group of quirky outliers: okay! Could be funny…if…script…was…funny?
Instead, the most ridiculously banal no-things happen: they knock over a cake. They go for a walk in the woods. They smoke pot in a hotel room, which is surely the most boring pot scene ever filmed. They barely appear to connect. Why are we here? Why should we care? Hey — these people don’t LOVE each other! They’re just getting married for the GIFTS! Like the worst wedding, you’re duped into being there to fill a seat, for the pomp and circumstance of it all. Writer/Director Jeffrey Blitz quite a list of impressive TV directing credits – from The Office to Parks & Rec to Playing House, so I’m not sure why he was allowed to write and direct this with so little comedic vision in mind. I’m all-too-aware of how nigh-impossible it is to get a film made, so it’s almost grotesque to see a film this bad get all the way to the theater.
It’s rather astounding how amateurish this film is given its impressive cast – which just goes to show you, a single stellar element can’t save a film when the directing and writing is this poor. Not even Stephen Merchant, as hard and as valiantly as that lanky, lovable go-to-dweeb may try!!!! His performance was the only one that remotely stood out in the film, and I have to believe it’s because he insisted on improvising his own lines (or it truly is accurate that an English accent can save anything). I’m not sure why Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson didn’t follow suit because their on-the-brink-of-divorce marital banter was insufferably trite. The eternally winsome June Squibb did what she could, and so did hunky Wyatt Russell, the only good part of Everybody Wants Some!! (come at me, Linklater bros!!!!!!).
I tried to imagine ever watching this again, which is what romcoms are good for: rewatching like an old friend, laughing at the old jokes and playful moments between its characters. I almost spit out a precious popcorn kernel – the good, perfectly salted kind of piece — while imagining ever, ever watching this movie again. I can’t remember the last time I rolled my eyes at the final frame of a film, but hey, thanks for the ocular aerobics, Table 19!