Why does Anna Kendrick have such a difficult time finding material as good as she is? Of late, her best work seems to only be in films that allow her the chance to sing (PITCH PERFECT, INTO THE WOODS, THE LAST FIVE YEARS), and while I’ll always pay money to hear her belt out a worthy tune, those films don’t always tap into her winning skills as skilled actor (with the exception of THE LAST FIVE YEARS, which is a really wonderful film I’m guessing you haven’t seen) the way that Up in the Air did. The first time I really remember seeing Kendrick in a film was 10 years ago in a wonderful little indie about a high school debate team called ROCKET SCIENCE. So when I heard that she was re-teaming with the writer-director of that film, Jeffrey Blitz, my heart soared ever so slightly.
Based on a story idea from Mark and Jay Duplass, TABLE 19 is a most disappointing story of ex-maid of honor Eloise McGarry (Kendrick) who still shows up at the wedding of her good friend despite just having broke up with her brother Teddy (Wyatt Russell), who in turn started dating the new maid of honor Nikki (Amanda Crew), making the whole affair really uncomfortable. As a result of her demotion as a member of the wedding party, Eloise has been seated at the table for people who basically should have RSVP’d as a no-show but still sent a gift. She’s particularly familiar with this table because when she was still maid of honor, she help figure out who belonged at it.
Among the rejects at Table 19 are the bride’s former nanny (June Squibb), a bickering couple (Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow), a horny teenager (Tony Revolori from THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL), and the slightly off nephew of the bride’s father (Stephen Merchant, also in Logan this week). Eloise spends most of the reception attempting to have a conversation with Teddy about why he broke things off with her (via text, for that extra bit of class), and that portion of the film seems like it belongs in a much less jokey environment than TABLE 19 provides. Director Blitz has a really tough time locating his tone, especially when a mid-plot reveal involving Kendrick tips the scales into more dramatic territory. Normally I’m a fan of a film that isn’t afraid to shift tones, but this movie never settles into one long enough to then move out of it gracefully.
Random, unpredictable behavior isn’t nearly as funny as you might think (and as Blitz clearly thinks); it merely makes your film appear messy and disjointed. The sometimes truly nasty marital war going on between Robinson and Kudrow seems wildly out of place in a lightweight affair like TABLE 19. One minute she’s wondering how to fix their marriage; the next, she’s confessing that the only reason she agreed to go to the wedding was the meet up with a man with whom she was going to have an affair. Wait, what?!
Put simply, TABLE 19 is a disjointed mess that wants to be a treatise on the many ways one can find true love, whether it’s with someone you’ve known for years or someone brand new. But the actual film that you hopefully won’t spend money to see this or any other weekend is a strange, unfunny mix of physical comedy, rom-com humor, and relationship drama, with Kendrick at the center attempting unsuccessfully to pull it all together. The film is admittedly loaded with a talented cast, but they’re given absolutely nothing remarkable to do or say, and you can easily spot them struggling for their purpose in this hollow mess of a movie.