[Screen It]

"TABLE 19"
(2017) (Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: A group of strangers end up seated together at a wedding and must contend with their various issues.
PLOT:
Eloise McGarry (ANNA KENDRICK) is a young woman whose boyfriend of two years, Teddy (WYATT RUSSELL), has recently broken up with her. The fact that he's the brother to Eloise's friend and will be the best man in that woman's wedding has forced Eloise to drop out of serving as the maid of honor, a role that's now gone to Teddy's girlfriend, Nikki (AMANDA CREW), who he dated before Eloise.

Regardless of that development, Eloise has decided to attend the wedding, but having been the person who arranged the seating chart for the reception, she's put herself in the back corner at table 19. Joining her are Bina (LISA KUDROW) and Jerry Kepp (CRAIG ROBINSON) who run a diner in another state but are suffering from marital discord; ex-con Walter Thimble (STEPHEN MERCHANT) who once stole $125,000 from the bride's father; Jo Flanagan (JUNE SQUIBB) who was the bride's nanny decades ago; and Renzo Eckberg (TONY REVOLORI), a high school student who's been encouraged by his mom to attend the wedding rather than his junior prom since it means he'll likely have a better chance of getting lucky there.

As the reception draws on, those at the table get to know each other as each goes through the various issues they're facing.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Being a movie reviewer has its perks. Beyond the most obvious one of getting to see movies for free and days or weeks before the general public, we also get to meet celebrities, participate in "best of the year" voting (and get free screeners in the process) and even attend televised award shows.

My wife enjoys all of those, but she always says that an added bonus of such a vocation is that it's a great icebreaker. You know, such as when you attend some sort of public function and don't really know many if any other people there.

In such cases, she'll introduce herself, then me, and then add that I'm a movie reviewer. And people's eyes inevitably widen, they get a smile on their face and they view you as something of a mini-celebrity, all of which gets dialogue, if you will, flowing. Because everyone loves talking about movies.

We've used that "get to meet people" tactic at any number of events, but particularly weddings since -- if you don't know many people related to the bride and/or groom -- you often end up "stuck" at a table for hours with complete strangers.

The discussion of movies doesn't ever come up for those seated in the back corner of a wedding reception in "Table 19," but just about everything else does in this occasionally funny, sometimes quirky and definitely uneven dramedy about strangers interacting with one another.

The big issue in this offering from writer/director Jeffrey Blitz is with its tonal shifts. At times it wants to be a screwball comedy, and at others a drama about a failing marriage. And then it goes the teenage sex comedy route, followed by poignant material about a terminal illness and an unplanned pregnancy's effects on a relationship, which itself segues back and forth from goofy comedy to more serious stuff. And that's all while the reception band plays enough '80s pop tunes to make you feel as if you've stepped back in time and into a John Hughes dramedy.

There's nothing wrong with trying to be more than one thing, or at least having multiple layers of genre material for added depth. But if that's the goal, then they need to come together and flow seamlessly from one to the next. Here, the approach has more of a lurching, ricochet vibe that that more often than not stymies any attempts at graceful transitions.

The plot is fairly straightforward and simple, if not entirely believable in terms of the "stragglers" or D-list, if you will, of who's been invited to the wedding. Some make perfect sense, such as the previous maid of honor (Anna Kendrick) who's dropped out of that role since her boyfriend (Wyatt Russell) -- the bride's brother who's serving as best man -- dumped her and already has a replacement (Amanda Crew) for the event. Beyond feeling vested in the reception due to planning most of that, she also wants to spy on her ex and his new gal pal. And it would make sense for the bride's first nanny (June Squibb) to be invited since she was involved in the formative years.

But the rest seem more like screenwriting contrivances than believable invitees. Yes, I'm nitpicking what's often a comedy, but I seriously doubt a relative (Stephen Merchant) who previously stole $125,000 from the bride's father would get an invite, and I still don't know why a married couple (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson) who run a diner in another state and don't seem to know anyone else there would be invited.

Ditto a teenager (Tony Revolori playing the geeky boy who would have been embodied by Anthony Michael Hall had this movie come out in the same era as the band's music) who shows up by himself upon his mother's urging since she believes he'll have a better chance of "getting lucky" there than at his junior prom. We never see the mother, but hear her on various occasions and her apparent preoccupation with helping him "score" is far creepier and bizarre than humorous.

I'll admit that some of the moments are genuinely funny and I could watch Kendrick in just about anything, even if her character here doesn't seem that far removed from the one she played in the "Pitch Perfect" movies (without the singing). And despite a budding romance with a stranger ultimately goes nowhere (I was rooting for it despite what seemed would be a predictable course in so many past similar films).

Others, such as Merchant, generate some laughs from the goofy material they've been given, but I didn't feel any of that went as far as it could and probably should have. And I could have done without the Kudrow/Robinson marital discord moments that don't do much for the film beyond tempering and sometimes unnecessarily dragging down the lighter moments.

So, much like the people you might meet at a wedding where you don't really know anyone, "Table 19" is a mixed bag experience, featuring some characters you don't mind hanging with for nearly ninety minutes, and others that would cause you to excuse yourself for another seating area. The film rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed February 27, 2017 / Posted March 3, 2017


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