Comedy Drama

'Table 19' Film Review: Anna Kendrick leads a terrific cast, in this pitch-perfect indie comedy

March 1, 2017Ben MK

Table 19 is a movie that follows in the footsteps of such wedding-themed comedies as Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Wedding Singer. But while, on the surface, the film appears to rest comfortably in the shallow rom-com niche carved out by its predecessors, that isn't actually the case.

Directed by Jeffrey Blitz, the film stars Anna Kendrick as Eloise, a woman whom — right from the moment we meet her — is in the midst of an emotional crisis. Freshly dumped by her boyfriend of two years, Teddy (Wyatt Russell), she also finds herself ditched as the maid of honor for the wedding of Teddy's sister, who also happens to be her best friend since childhood. And if that weren't enough, to add further insult to injury, she's also been shuffled off to the table of "randoms" and "undesirables" at the post-wedding reception — the titular table 19.

There, she meets her fellow table-mates: Renzo (Tony Revolori), an awkward teenager who's been convinced to attend by his mom, in the hopes that he can finally score a date; Bina and Jerry (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), a dysfunctional married couple who run a diner in another state; Jo (June Squibb), the pot-smoking, former nanny to the bride; and Walter (Stephen Merchant), a gangly cousin of the groom who's also been convicted of embezzling money from the groom's father. It's a ragtag group of characters for sure, and it's a formula ripe for zany comedy.

Which is exactly how Table 19 plays out, at least for its first one-third, where we witness Renzo fail miserably at securing a dance with a young lady at another table, Bina discover that her outfit looks disturbingly like the uniforms worn by the serving staff, and Walter do his best to pretend that he's not an ex-con but rather a successful businessman, all with, of course, ridiculous and hilarious results. But then Table 19 does something unexpected: it turns into a melancholy character drama, one that's genuinely affecting, dealing in some hard emotional truths.

Perhaps it shouldn't come as a complete surprise, considering that the film's writers are none other than brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, who have amassed a well-earned amount of street cred around indie filmmaking circles over the years. But, nonetheless, it's not what one might expect given the film's promotional material, which positions Table 19 as a meet-cute rom-com set against a backdrop of radio-friendly alternative pop songs. Granted, those elements are still present here to a certain degree, but they're out-shined by the dramatic performances.

That being said, Table 19 still delivers its fair share of laughs. But the real highlight is how it subverts the candy-coated superficiality of the genre, with its cast being able to wring some genuine emotional depth out of their characters, most of whom are either seeking love, feeling the gut-wrenching heartache from falling out of love, or seeking to recapture love after years of relationship neglect. Suffice to say, the movie is deeper than it lets on, so don't be surprised if — much like at a real wedding — you end up crying, as well as laughing.

Table 19 releases March 3rd, 2017 from Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, drug use, language and some brief nudity. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 27 Mins.

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