I've been reviewing films off and on for about five years. And if there
is one thing I've learned about criticism is that the vast,
unchallenged mean between absolutely great movies and downright
terrible ones hides a lot of non-committal fence sitting. I'm guilty of
it myself; in today's age of instant self-gratification, it's easy to
cobble together a knee-jerk opinion based on someone else's ideas.
Problem is those ideas, whether valid or not, sometimes creates a
subterfuge of undeserved hype or undeserved vitriol depending on the
circumstance. They feed a cycle of wafer-thin subjectivity masquerading
as authoritative proof of something's worth. This is why, for example a
movie like Equilibrium (2002) can be seen as something more than a
splashy Matrix (1999) rip-off while movies like Mystery Team (2009) are
swept under the rug.
So it is with Table 19, a movie no one will likely see because the critical consensus is so bad that it's created its own negative feedback loop. Table 19 takes place over the course of several hours of a wedding reception at a rustic hotel lodge. As the happy couple celebrates their new marriage amid friends and family, a small group of strangers sit at the back table, forcing uncomfortable banter and gracelessly ignoring the reason for their position in the back. Among them are the argumentative Kepps (Kudlow and Robinson), the dotty Ms. Jo (Squibb), gawky teen Renzo (Revolori), distant cousin Walter (Merchant) and Eloise (Kendrick) the disgraced ex-Maid of Honor who was dumped by the Best Man (Russell).
To say Table 19 is "ridiculous and a mess," is a bit of an understatement. As critics rightly point out, the pacing is stop and go, the editing is slapdash and the high-concept simply doesn't have the wherewithal to make it through a feature-length movie. Once the initial awkward niceties are flushed under the force of the first big narrative reveal, the film descends into a checklist of soapy plot-points and lazy character short hands. Much like 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (a similarly imperfect ensemble farce), Table 19 klutzily mixes its farcical elements with broad, sweeping story setups and has them slosh about until the runtime wears out. On top of it all, the tone shifts wildly depending on who you're following at the time.
Thing is, I actually liked 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, and I liked Table 19 too for much the same reason. The characters, as broad as they may be at times never ceased to entertain; Stephen Merchant's portrayal as a familial pariah Franken-walking through the banquet hall is worth the admission price alone. As are Renzo's far too honest conversations with his mother (Martindale in a superb unseen role) which mostly consist of him rolling his eyes while she pushes him to "get laid already." Behind the Kepps' increasingly hostile quibbling and Grandma Jo's insistence that she'll be remembered (just you wait), lays a unified feeling of melancholy.
That feeling of melancholy along with some solid comedic setups and payoffs permeate through the film's cosmetic faults. Every time you're distracted by an awkward cut or taken aback by some of the more hammy moments, the film quickly lulls you back with its quixotic charm.
Helping to dry up this mess and put it back into a nice looking bucket is the relentless Anna Kendrick who by now has turned the neurotic jilted girl archetype into a symbol of quasi-empowerment. While she wins no brownie points for that here, there's something near noble about the way she throws herself into the fray. She easily elevates an already stellar cast and sells the hell out of the movies main conceit.
Much like the twangy banjo version of Pachabel's Canon in D that plays over the film's title sequence, Table 19 is a unique version of a very old cultural tradition. It's certainly not the best version of what it could be but with more than a handful of charming performances, this delightful little farce deserves a little better than the wedding inspired japes it's been getting from critics. Perhaps it's a case of ugly duckling syndrome on my part, but I'm going to go ahead and say "I Do" to this one.
Action / Comedy / Drama
Action / Comedy / Drama
Ex-maid of honor Eloise (Anna Kendrick) - having been relieved of her duties after being unceremoniously dumped by the best man via text - decides to hold her head up high and attend her oldest friend's wedding anyway. She finds herself seated at the 'random' table in the back of the ballroom with a disparate group of strangers, most of whom should have known to just send regrets (but not before sending something nice off the registry). As everyone's secrets are revealed, Eloise learns a thing or two from the denizens of Table 19. Friendships - and even a little romance - can happen under the most unlikely circumstances.
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June 01, 2017 at 10:09 PM