The communal Table 19 offers a disservice

In Table 19, Anna Kendrick (right) tries to make the most of her place card, but can’t quite save the wedding story. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox In Table 19, Anna Kendrick (right) tries to make the most of her place card, but can’t quite save the wedding story. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Table 19 tells the story of an unlikely group of wedding attendants stuck together at the worst table, who were invited either perfunctorily or spitefully. Unfortunately it’s an accurate metaphor for the movie itself, which crams an impossibly talented cast into the lamest film of the year that appears to exist for no other reason than to keep actors employed between more worthwhile endeavors. Lazily conceived, woefully written, with plenty of punchlines that crash without proper jokes to support them, Table 19 is only worth seeing if you have a deep appreciation for watching solid actors trying to squeeze emotion out of cold, calculated nothingness.

Table 19
PG-13, 87 minutes
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

As mentioned above, the film is about the occupants of the “miscellaneous” table at a wedding. This serves as an excuse for there to be no plot in particular yet still have five completely unrelated stories in the same movie to disguise the fact that none of them is fully fleshed out. The guests aren’t exactly misfits as much as they are people whose relationship to the bride and groom is either distant or rocky. There’s Renzo (Tony Revolori), a junior in high school who is equally desperate and determined to find a romantic match. There’s Jo (June Squibb), the former nanny who believes her contribution to the bride’s early life to be more substantial than it was. Stephen Merchant is the groom’s uncle, who is attending while serving a prison sentence for theft. Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson play Bina and Jerry, an unhappily married couple who actively pester one another all day.

The main story, such as there is one, focuses on Eloise (Anna Kendrick), the bride’s oldest friend and very recent ex of the best man, Teddy (Wyatt Russell), who has brought his new girlfriend. Eloise initially has doubts about attending; doubts that are validated after seeing Teddy for the first time. It is revealed that he broke up with her over text message, and every interaction appears to indicate that they were actually miserable together. But as soon as a moment presents itself for some unearned sincerity, Teddy appears as a completely different figure with a sob story of his own, and we are expected to root for him and Eloise to reunite because we suddenly saw him cry.

Lazily conceived, woefully written, with plenty of punchlines that crash without proper jokes to support them, Table 19 is only worth seeing if you have a deep appreciation for watching solid actors trying to squeeze emotion out of cold, calculated nothingness.

That’s all that happens in everyone’s individual story. The bickering couple fights until we learn something about them. The nanny acts maternal until we learn something about her. The horny kid acts horny, the weird guy acts weird, even a crasher—a walk-on character with virtually no screen time—acts seductive, until we learn something about each of them. These revelations might be meaningful if the characters were worth any sort of emotional investment, but all that happens is they begin as husks and end as slightly different husks.

It is worth reiterating that the cast is stellar, and no blame for this waste of hard drive space belongs to them. There are very occasional earned laughs thanks to their commitment, and at times director Jeffrey Blitz (Rocket Science, episodes of “The Office”) seems to skewer the way weddings are entirely arbitrary gatherings of people who have no relation to one another, a worthy target.

However, any sympathy Table 19 might have earned flies out the window for A. sucking, B. not being funny and C. betraying its own characters. This observation may veer into spoiler territory, but Table 19 ought to be ashamed of the way it suggests that no relationship is too broken or dysfunctional it can’t be patched up by sticking it out or saying the right thing. Though La La Land was objectionable in other ways, it did have the maturity to recognize that the love between its leads would not work within a conventional marriage, yet they still met happy endings, and it’s time other movies get the memo. Stop with the stay-together porn and start respecting your characters, and the intelligence of the audience.


Playing this week

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213

A Dog’s Purpose, Before I Fall, Fifty Shades Darker, Fist Fight, Get Out, John Wick: Chapter 2, La La Land, The Lego Batman Movie, Logan, Moonlight, Rock Dog, The Shack, Split

Violet Crown Cinema
200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000

A United Kingdom, Fifty Shades Darker, Get Out, Hidden Figures, I Am Not Your Negro, La La Land, The Lego Batman Movie, Logan

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