The experience of watching Table 19 is, fittingly enough, much like attending a wedding by yourself in which you classify the bride and groom as “acquaintances.” It is awkward, features occasional moments of fun, and ultimately leaves you wondering if it was worth getting all dressed up for.
Jeffrey Blitz’s latest film revolves around a group of guests who find themselves sitting at the “random” table at a wedding that only some of them actually wanted to attend in the first place. Much of the story focuses on Eloise (Anna Kendrick) who was originally supposed to be the maid of honor at the wedding, but forfeited the role after being dumped by text message by Teddy (Wyatt Russell), the bride’s brother who is also part of the wedding party. Grudgingly forcing herself to go to the wedding, she is the bride’s oldest friend after all, Eloise cannot help but spend most of her time spying on her ex-beau.
Eloise is not the only sad sack dealing with personal issues, in fact the whole table is the epitome of repressed emotions. There is the frequently bickering couple, Bina (Lisa Kudrow) and Jerry Kepp (Craig Robinson), who seem to take pleasure in humiliating each other; the bride’s former nanny, Jo (June Squibb), who spent her life caring for spoiled children; A socially awkward felon, Walter (Stephen Merchant) recently paroled; and a teenager, Rezno (Tony Revolori), whose meddling mother is trying to help him get laid.
Over the course of one increasingly embarrassing reception secrets are revealed, friendships are formed and each person learns a little something about themselves.
Working off a script by Jay and Mark Duplass, Table 19 struggles to find its own unique groove. The film frequently flirts with being a traditional slapstick romantic comedy, complete with its own dashing prince charming (Thomas Cocquerel), while also trying to be a quirky character driven piece. The problem with this though is that the oddballs sitting at table 19 are not really that odd. Take Renzo for example, the notion of a teenager wanting to get laid is not as “weird” as Blitz tries hard to make us believe it is.
The real problem with this film is that, outside of Eloise, the majority of the characters feel more like thinly constructed sketches rather than real people.
As a result it never feels like we truly get to know any of the characters. This is unfortunate considering the strong cast that Blitz assembles. While the likes of Lisa Kudrow, who is always a treat, and others try to make the most of what little they are given, it is Stephen Merchant who steals the show with his note perfect comedic performance as Walter. However, not even Merchant can save the film from drifting into the conventional tropes it seemingly attempts to avoid. Similar to conversations that one has with guests at weddings, Table 19 never breaches the surface level.