The first thing you need to know is that despite the way its trailer makes it look, Table 19 is not a romantic comedy. The second thing you need to know is that it has an 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and I AM HERE TO DEFEND IT. Table 19 is the kind of mid-range, adult-oriented, not-quite-comedy, not-quite drama character ensemble movie that barely gets made any more, and it has a specific kind of losery charm and can-do pluck and I f*cking like it. FIGHT ME.
Anna Kendrick stars as Eloise, who has been demoted from maid of honor to the rejects’ table at her oldest friend’s wedding after the best man dumps her via text before the wedding. Table 19 comes from Jay and Mark Duplass, the guys behind Baghead, Cyrus, and Jeff, Who Lives At Home. If you don’t know those movies or the Duplassi, they specialize in awkward comedy-drama about losers who don’t realize they’re losers and live their lives like winners, often causing trauma to the people around them while doing so. It’s a very specific niche, it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay.
Table 19 reteams Kendrick with her Rocket Science director, Jeffrey Blitz, who is a veteran director of The Office and also Andy Daly’s STONE COLD BRILLIANT show Review, for which Blitz also writes. (Daly gets a cameo in Table 19.) And the movie stars a slew of enormously talented actors including June Squibb, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, Tony Revolori, Stephen Merchant—doing an A+ Stephen Merchant Oddball character—and Wyatt Russell. (Russell has charmed me every time I’ve seen him, and here he gets to deliver a wrenching monologue that pretty much makes the whole movie—keep an eye on this one.) There’s an enormous amount of talent in Table 19 and everyone gets their moment.
The problem for Table 19 seems to be that it’s not any one thing. It’s got enough funny bits—mostly thanks to Merchant—that it’s not a full blown drama, but there is too much dramatic weight for it to be a comedy. And the trailer is misleading, so people may feel betrayed when it turns out to be more serious than advertised. The first half does seem to go in the rom-com direction, as Eloise meets a handsome Australian stranger (Thomas Cocquerel, who looks like a long-lost Hemsworth cousin) who crashes the wedding to hang out with Eloise. But then the movie jukes about the mid-way point and turns into something more complicated and messy.
Everyone’s having problems at this wedding. Besides Eloise and her ex-boyfriend, married couple Bina and Jerry (Kudrow and Robinson) are in a rut and have very different ideas about the state of their marriage. Awkward teen Renzo (Revolori) is trying way too hard to get laid, and Walter (Merchant) is not the “successful businessman” he claims to be. Table 19 strikes a nice balance between the serious problems—Bina/Jerry and Eloise—and the comic relief problems—Walter and Renzo—with June Squibb as a pot-smoking retired nanny mediating between the two tones.
Table 19 is not a perfect movie, but it is charming and there is real emotional weight to the problems people are having. It’s a nice story about embracing personal disaster and the work of relationships—there’s a nice touch at the end when a bickering couple takes the time to consciously choose to be kind to one another. If you’re looking for fizzy romantic escapism, this is not your movie. But if you want to try something for grown-ups about the reality of making a relationship work, then Table 19 might be for you.