Of course, I’d never seek to deliberately raise or lower the rating of a film, but considering all that’s wrong in the world, does Table 19 really deserve a one-star rating and a miserly 25 per-cent positive for reviews on Rotten Tomatoes? I’m not saying this is a masterpiece, or even a hidden gem, but in the days of so few good rom-coms, there’s plenty of simple pleasures to be found in this Duplass brothers story of the souls unfortunate enough to be dumped at the outpost of Table 19 at a posho society wedding. As part of my ongoing The Films of Anna Kendrick; A Personal Journey sidebar, I thought I’d take a forensic look at the form, content and subtextual meaning of this film; care to join me at Table 19?
Director Jeffrey Blitz rewrote the Duplass script for this, and it’s a little lighter and more upbeat than their usual style. Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick) is introduced setting fire to her ex-friend’s wedding invitation, but turns up anyway, only to find she’s not at the top table, or even a mediocre one; she’s right by the toilets at table 19, alongside a motely collection of losers including The Office creator Stephen Merchant, US Office star Craig Robinson, Friends Lisa Kudrow and the redoubtable June Squibb as a pot-smoking nanny.
Yet more references to The Breakfast Club are obvious and unflattering, particularly given that Pitch Perfect hung on the same peg, but if you don’t know that movie, there’s some gentle fun to be gained in seeing how Eloise and co rebel against the wedding elite and end up subverting the whole show. There’s also a selection of 80’s hits reworked for a wedding band which is a good, comic choice, and Wyatt Russell makes a good fist as Eloise’s eccentric ex who comes to realise that he might just have missed out on something good.
Table 19 was filmed in Atlanta and was a Fox Searchlight production, meaning that this odd, uneven little film now ends up on Disney+, and might just connect with part of the audience it missed out on in cinemas. There’s some fun with a destroyed wedding cake, plenty of cringe comedy, and even if Merchant’s goggle-eyed loser strains credulity at times, Kendrick keeps things on point. Chilling can be a desirable thing in a movie, and Table 19, for all its flaws, goes down easily enough as an 90 minutes-or-less amuse-bouche when a heavy meal seems like too much hassle.