Saturday, March 4, 2017

Table 19

3/4

Starring: Anna Kendrick, June Squibb, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, Wyatt Russell, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori

Rated PG-13 for Thematic Elements, Sexual Content, Drug Use, Language and Some Brief Nudity

I went to my brother's wedding last August.  I was in the wedding party, so I didn't get a chance to see the people who were invited by obligation rather than a genuine desire on the part of the bride and groom for them to be there on their special day.  But I know the feeling of being trapped with people you don't know in a place you're not sure you really want to be.  Who hasn't felt like the odd man out?

Two months ago, Eloise (Kendrick) has was dumped by her boyfriend, Teddy (Russell).  By text, no less, followed by "Best of luck in your future endeavors."  Since the bride is her oldest friend, she decides to go to the wedding, despite the fact that Teddy will certainly be there (he is the best man).  She was going to be the maid of honor, but dropped out after her relationship fizzled out.  Now she's stuck at Table 19, with a group of apparent weirdos whose relationship to the bride or groom are tenuous.  They are: Jo (Flanagan), the bride's ex-nanny, Bina (Kudrow) and Jerry Kepp (Robinson), a couple whose diner is related to the father of the bride's business, Walter (Merchant), the father of the bride's disgraced nephew who is freshly free from prison, and Renzo (Revolori), a high school kid whose reasons for being invited are never made clear, but is sent there by his mother (Margo Martindale, who never appears on camera) in an attempt to get laid.  That hijinks ensue and problems are solved is, I suppose, a foregone conclusion.

As far as tragicomedies go, "Table 19" is a good one.  While the shifts in tone are jarring enough to cause whiplash, the characters are appealing and it's actually funny and heartfelt.  Since those two qualities are its goals, I have to label the movie as a success.  If only a minor one.

The cast is made up of some of the most reliable character actors in the business.  Anna Kendrick plays her usual self: a tightly wound but insecure yuppie who is unlucky in love.  It's not all that different from a lot of characters she plays, but Kendrick is so appealing that it hardly matters.  As the mother hen (with pot), June Squibb is warm and funny, able to see through people's problems and freely dispensing advice.  Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson are in fine form in the underwritten roles of a couple whose marriage is imploding.  Known for comedy, the two demonstrate a clear capacity for drama.  Stephen Merchant does his weirdo dork schtick, something he is well suited for.  And Tony Revolori is also good as the weird kid who isn't sure why he's there but gets the most bizarre encouragement from his mom.

"Table 19" is the kind of movie that Miramax would distribute in its heyday.  Free from megastars and special effects, bloated budgets and running times, obsessive marketing and fanboy frenzy.  It's a little movie that trusts its characters to bring in audiences and keep them in the theater.  The problem is that the marketing has been so non-existent that it may not find its audience.  Going up against "Logan" and it threatens to disappear completely.  As a film critic, it's my job to make sure that good movies like this reach as many people as possible.  In this case, I'm happy to do so.

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