Film Review: TABLE 19 (USA 2016)

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table_19.jpgDirector: Jeffrey Blitz
Writers: Jay Duplass (screenplay), Mark Duplass (screenplay)
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson

Review by Gilbert Seah

TABLE 19 is the low-budget small comedy typical of director Jeffrey Blitz and writer Jay and Mark Duplass. Blitz directed THE OFFICE episodes, the feature BOTTLE ROCKET and the documentary on the spelling bee SPELLBOUND. The Duplass brothers are famous for THE PUFFY CHAIR, JEFF, WHO NOW LIVES AT HOME and BAGHEAD. All these films are not masterpieces but sweet little films that are entertaining enough.

The protagonist of the new Duplass/Blitz film is Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick, MR. RIGHT, UP IN THE AIR the PITCH PERECT movies). Eloise has just been dumped by her boyfriend, Teddy (Wyatt Russell) who is the brother and best man of the wedding. Eliose does not want to attend but does. She ends up at TABLE 19, the wedding ‘table of losers’. There are 6 at a table. The others at TABLE 5 are:
Walter Thimple, just out of prison (Stephen Merchant)
Bina Kepp, unhappy wife out for a affair (Lisa Kudrow)
Jerry Kepp, her unhappy husband (Craig Robinson)
nanny of the family, Jo Flanagan (Judy Squib) and
Rezno Eckberg (Tony Revolorif from THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL)

Half way through the film, it suddenly dawns that this film is not that funny. The jokes are mild at most, often a few off-coloured ones (to distinguish the film from a TV movie) with a few scenes with drug use. But TABLE 19 turns out to be a serious comedy.

Nothing is what it seems! Eloise also meets and sort of falls in love with a wedding crasher, a handsome guy called, Huck (Thomas Cocquerel) but again, Huck is not who he seems to be as revealed in the manipulative script.
Anna Kendrick is charming and helpless enough in her leading role. Oscar nominee Judy Squib plays the know-it-all ex-nanny but the most laughs come from Stephen Merchant.

The script turns each character of the table to be actually very nice people – even the ex-con had good intentions for embezzling the money. The big ‘turn’ happens during the confrontation between Eloise and Teddy. Teddy is somewhat sweet and hapless. But the problem is the script being too manipulative and eager to please.

The script centres on the TABLE 19 guests. As Eloise actually planned the seating arrangement of the wedding, there is a scene where she describes each table from Table 1 to Table 19 from the singles table to the parents table and so on.

Fortunately, the script does not distract with the other guests. The appropriately lively bride and bridegroom are given just enough screen time to keep the subject of wedding on track.

TABLE 19 should please the less demanding audience. At the promo screening, I could overhear the comments of the audience. Most enjoyed the film, with adjectives like ‘sweet’, ‘romantic’ and ‘funny’. But the script should have been less manipulative and predicable. TABLE 19 turns out too sugary sweet for my liking and my guess for the liking of most critics.


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