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« "Beauty" and the Gay Sidekick | Main | Get Caught Up on "Pfandom" »
Thursday
Mar022017

Review: "Table 19"

by Chris Feil

Table 19 is a solid sketch comedy concept - a quirky table of oddball, mismatched wedding guests at the bottom of the acquaintance food chain - a trifle built to go down easy with even a modest amount of charm applied. Add in a winning cast (Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Tony Revolori, and Stephen Merchant) and this should be a recipe for some simple pleasures at the very least.

Forget for a moment that the film goes to great lengths to prove to us that this ensemble amounts to anything less than the Cool Table. You’re trying to tell me I wouldn’t leap at the opportunity to get weird with Kudrow and Squibb at a tacky wedding? Hmmmmm.

But the film only minimally uses this cast’s natural charms and doesn’t seem all that aware in the inherent comedy of such a concept. Instead of heightening their differences (and therefore the comedy), the residents of Table 19 are drawn as a sadsack bunch, each drawn in terms too pedestrian to stir up much laughs or sympathy.  The film could use more shades of both bitter and sweet in its characterizations that lean toward the basic.

Even as the film sometimes trivializes their baggage, Table 19 is blessed with an ensemble that does try to complicate it as much as they can. The film is maybe least sure of the witty gifts of its leading lady, Kendrick asked to mostly mope against her charming impulses. The chemistry between Kudrow and Robinson is the film’s most human and specific creation, finding real feeling in a mostly uninvolving subplot.

Writer/director Jeffrey Blitz shares story credit with Mark and Jay Duplass. You can imagine a version of this film heavier with the Duplass influence, one where its modest concerns like Kudrow and Robinson’s marital woes and Kendrick’s break-up from the Best Man are given more understated humanity. Unfortunately the simpler conflicts are rendered a little thin, too vague to really invest in. Small moments of honesty are peppered throughout, but with some distance between them.

When Table 19 is at its funniest, it still lacks a certain attention to detail to keep the laughs popping. Farce and ensemble comedy aren’t easy to pull off without a sturdy backbone of rhythm and timing, and the film never quite establishes itself. Because it never finds a realistic way for these people to communicate, the sappier moments sputter into place out of function and necessity. There are multiple forced “a ha!” moments between characters to introduce new plot threads that only alienate us further from the fun. The result is 87 fairly long and meandering minutes, mildly pleasant if not all that entertaining.

Grade: C-

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Reader Comments (3)

That's a shame. I was looking forward to this one. Some of us are still metaphorically stuck on Table 19, so the concept has some resonance. But who says Table 19 isn't the 'cool table'? Singletons, in my personal experience, tend to be a lot more fun and engaging to be around than a bunch of complacent, smugly self-satisfied couples.

March 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarco

When I saw the trailer for this I was a hard pass immediately. Mostly because any table with Squibb, Kudrow and Kendrick would be the cool table in any wedding that occurs outside of a high school. So it had "waste of talent" written all over it.

Kudrow needs a VEEP type hit at this point. One of the best comedians around.

March 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTony T

Is time to stop trying to make Anna Kendrick happen, isn't it?

March 7, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbarbara_pp

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