True Confession: I don’t really like romantic comedies. I’m always the person sitting in the theater feeling that all that’s needed to “fix” anything is an actual five-minute conversation between the principals, or the realization that Elsa from Frozen is right and you can’t marry a guy you just met, and on and on.
The few romantic comedies I like always bomb. I’m pretty sure they bomb because they break the romantic comedy formula and hit realism just too much for their target audience. I really thought Forces of Nature was good, for example, because the final decisions made were totally in character and smart, meaning the two leads didn’t end up together. So, I’m really sorry Table 19, but I thought you were really good. I apologize in advance for the low box office.
Anna Kendrick stars as Eloise, but while she’s the star, this is definitely an ensemble movie. The set-up is pure romantic comedy formula – Eloise is the oldest friend of The Bride (Rya Meyers), and has been dating said Bride’s brother, Teddy (Wyatt Russell), for two years, until he broke up with her over text. Eloise has bowed out of being the Maid of Honor, therefore, to keep things from being weird, and Teddy’s new/old girlfriend, Nikki (Amanda Crew), is now the Maid of Honor in Eloise’s place. At the last minute, Eloise decides to attend because she’s not going to let all of this ruin her getting to see her friend get married.
So far, so very formulaic. My biggest negative with the movie IS this setup, because the idea that the bride would okay some skank she doesn’t like as much as her oldest friend as her Maid of Honor seems iffy to me. Either the bride is the biggest, most self-centered bridezilla ever, or she’s saying “Be an adult” to her brother and keeps her friend in the wedding party. Or else there’s something more going on.
We see the rest of those at Table 19 getting their invitations and making their plans to attend, despite the fact that none of them have spent any time with the families in question in years. We have the bride’s first nanny, Nanny Jo (June Squibb), who comes with her cute, well-behaved dog that doesn’t upstage anyone or do anything amazingly twee (one of the first and most pleasant breaks from formula). Then there’s the married couple whose marriage is very much on the rocks, Jerry and Bina Kepp (Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow). There’s the relative, Walter (Stephen Merchant), who’s living at a halfway house who was invited and gets furlough to attend the wedding without any kind of police supervision. (Does that happen in real life? No idea, but his character is sweet and hilarious, so okay, I’ll buy it.) And lastly we have a teenaged boy, Renzo (Tony Revolori), hoping that the magic of Wedding Crashers will shine upon him.
As Eloise explains early on, she helped do the seating arrangements, and this is the table for random people who, per the bride’s mother, “Should have known better than to attend and, instead, should have sent their regrets and a nice gift from the registry.” This information doesn’t really throw most of the table, but Nanny Jo is rightfully upset by it. However, it seems accurate.
Eloise and Teddy fight, she meets a handsome guy who says his name is Huck (Thomas Cocquerel), who does his best to help her make Teddy jealous, but who also sort of mysteriously disappears after they kiss rather passionately. Will Eloise find him in time to figure out who the real Mr. Right in her life really is?
Spoiler things happen that cause the entire table to bond, to leave the wedding, bond some more, share or discover the secrets each of them are hiding, and, ultimately, help Eloise get her life, and their lives, too, back on track.
What surprised me was everything else that happened in the movie. Table 19 actually avoids the easy answers, forces its characters to become better people and better to each other, and breaks formula again and again. Not all the time, but far more often than the majority of romantic comedies ever will. I was entertained, invested in the characters and their situations, and all the layers revealed made the movie better. There aren’t a lot of coincidences in this movie, and the characters actually do speak to each other about the problems at hand.
This movie was heartwarming without being cloying, had many laugh-out-loud moments, and all of its emotions are actually earned. When what – by the time the movie’s coming to an end – you’re hoping will happen actually does, it’s a relief because you’re invested in these people by the time it’s done and it’s nice to see happily-ever-afters actually earned. It’s a romantic comedy I’d be happy to watch again, and, for me, that’s rare praise.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Ex-maid of honor Eloise (Anna Kendrick) – having been relieved of her duties after being unceremoniously dumped by the best man via text – decides to hold her head up high and attend her oldest friend’s wedding anyway. She finds herself seated at the ‘random’ table in the back of the ballroom with a disparate group of strangers, most of whom should have known to just send regrets (but not before sending something nice off the registry). As everyone’s secrets are revealed, Eloise learns a thing or two from the denizens of Table 19. Friendships – and even a little romance – can happen under the most unlikely circumstances.
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori, Wyatt Russell, Amanda Crew
Story by: Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass and Jeffrey Blitz
Screenplay by: Jeffrey Blitz
Directed by: Jeffrey Blitz