Friday, March 3, 2017

Stellar Cast Can't Save 'Table 19'



This review originally appeared on SFist.com.

Table 19
is an indie comedy that tries to capture the awkwardness of having to sit with people you don't know at weddings, especially when you wonder if you've been seated with all the guests the wedding party was hoping wouldn't actually come, because if so, surely that must be some kind of mistake, right?
Eloise (Anna Kendrick) knows her placement at table 19 isn't a mistake, because she helped the bride plan the wedding, and was scheduled to be the maid of honor until the best man, Teddy (Wyatt Russell), who is also the bride's brother, broke up with her a few weeks before the wedding.

The other guests at table 19 include the bride's former nanny (June Squibb), a bickering married couple (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), a "successful businessman" (Stephen Merchant), and a teenage boy (Tony Revolori) desperate to lose his virginity. The table 19 guests and their relations to the bride and groom are slowly revealed, and why they were all placed at the loser table becomes clear. (Except for the teenager; never did get why he was invited.)

Weddings are usually good fodder for comedies, but Table 19 makes the mistake of moving a lot of the action away from the wedding reception itself, as the motley crew bonds over their mutual loser status while smoking some medicinal marijuana and wandering around the hotel's lakeside grounds.

The film was directed by Jeffrey Blitz and written by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass. The Duplass brothers have a lot of mumblecore comedies under their belts as writers, actors, directors, and producers. And as with most mumblecore films, Table 19 is more interested in character and dialogue than it is in plot, which would be fine if the characters and dialog were actually funny.

There are a lot of gifted comedic actors in the movie, but there aren't a lot of laughs. Kudrow and Robinson are convincing as a couple who hates each other, but you don't believe for a second that they ever actually liked each other, even though the plot dictates it. Stephen Merchant gets the most consistent laughs, but he's just a natural born scene stealer who spends a lot of the film in pants and a blazer two sizes too small. And Anna Kendrick has to rely on her natural charm and play straight man way too often, while also saddled with a character obsessed with a guy who is cleeeaaaarly a loser.

But film's biggest problem is in its direction and editing. The timing is all wrong, with jokes getting no time to breathe before someone else starts talking. Some dialogue that's clearly supposed to be funny, is literally mumbled, so you miss it completely.

So, who knows, maybe it's a much funnier movie than I think it is, just one that isn't suited to an audience experience. It's not often I'd suggest skipping seeing anything on the big screen, but I really think Table 19 would work better on the small screen, where you can rewind and listen again for that joke you're pretty sure you just missed. And if it turns out it wasn't worth a rewind? At least you can fall asleep and start snoring without bothering the person in the row in front of you.

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