TL;DR
  • Witty, enjoyable script
  • Funny, likable characters which give the film heart
  • Good cast, but comic genius Stephen Merchant criminally underused
  • But not much happens and often feels like it’s lagging
  • Nothing really feels special about the movie, but it’s comfortable and enjoyable enough

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Table 19 is a simple, refreshing comedy of which we really don’t have enough these days. Sort of a cross between Community and Wedding Crashers we witness a random mix of lovable, amusing characters trying to stay sane at a wedding. While not a masterpiece and unlikely to stick in the memory and hearts of most viewers, it’s a solid comedy with a sweet heart at its centre.

Reluctantly attending the wedding of her oldest friend after being replaced as maid of honour and breaking up with the bride’s brother, Eloise (Anna Kendrick) is seated at titular table 19; the table deigned fit for random people who apparently are hardly wanted at the wedding at all. Accompanying her on this table are Rezno (Tony Revolori), Jo (June Squibb), Walter (Stephen Merchant) and Bina and Jerry Kepp (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson respectively). Initially awkward, they soon learn about each other and become a close knit group of friends to help each other survive an unpleasant wedding.

Initially a slow start, you can’t help but wonder if things will speed up and hope you warm to the characters. This is hampered more by the beginning not being as funny as you would hope for the opening of a comedy, but as the story starts picking up, so do the laughs. The characters especially are as crucial as the writing in a film such as this, since the whole film pivots on the characters themselves and the relationships between them. With the exception of Huck (Thomas Cocquerel), a seemingly random and pointless character that leads to virtually nothing, each character is there for a reason, gives us laughs and, most important of all, lends more heart to the whole film. The guests at the titular table 19 are a diverse, amusing and ultimately lovable bunch of misfits who only become more likable as their skeletons come out of their closets and we learn their secrets.

As likable as the characters can be, however, this can only carry the film to a certain extent, whereafter you really need story. This is where Table 19 lacks; although admittedly an intricate plot certainly isn’t needed, it does feel stagnant for quite long periods, with little happening and few twists  to surprise and engage us until the end.

As I’ve said though, it is a character-driven piece and it’s fortunate that director Jeffery Blitz was able to secure such talent for a film like this. From less famous June Squibb and Tony Revolori to very well-known comedy actors Craig Robinson, Stephen Merchant and Lisa Kudrow – and of course Anna Kendrick, arguably the driving force of the movie. Tony Revolori particularly is interesting to watch since before I had only seen him as Zero in The Grand Budapest Hotel, yet now he’s skyrocketed himself to the MCU, soon to be appearing in Spider-Man: Homecoming as Flash, traditionally the school bully. Far from being a school bully here, he is a socially awkward, sexually desperate teenager who tiptoes through the sexual minefield of a wedding, not knowing how to handle himself. This plays for laughs, along with the bickering Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow, who work well together with some unique chemistry, making it refreshing to see her away from playing Phoebe in Friends and to see him away from Seth Rogen-style comedies (much as they are a guilty pleasure for me). June Squibb is a relief as the motherly character who really brings the the caring nature to the group and Anna Kendrick again plays the quirky-but-adorable persona she’s carefully built up over the years to drive the emotional heart of the film. Particular mention also has to go to Wyatt Russell who’s character of Teddy develops more than the others throughout the film (much to my surprise), going from a thoroughly unlikable, self-centred ex-boyfriend to a complicated, mis-understood ex-boyfriend. The only issue with the cast however was Stephen Merchant; not that he was bad though, this I have to emphasise. Instead, a hot talent of comedy that he’s proved himself to be (and even showing in Logan how he can also play a variety of different characters), he was criminally underused, relegated to being just a stereotype of a creepy Englishman. When he’s given a chance to be funny, he’s the best of the bunch; but sadly he isn’t given nearly as many chances as he should be.

All in all it’s a rather jolly affair with it’s ups-and-downs – a bit like weddings themselves really. It doesn’t give itself a chance to go out there and be different, be funnier – but what we are given is an invitation to sit at the back of a random wedding and get to know a funny, dysfunctional, lovable group.

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