“Table 19” arranges a bountiful display of talent. Writer/director Jeffrey Blitz — the indie filmmaker behind the richly inspired “Rocket Science,” the heartfelt and touching National Spelling Bee documentary “Spellbound,” and Comedy Central’s bleakly hilarious, criminally underseen mockumentary “Review” — reunites with Anna Kendrick, the standout starlet from his first narrative feature, works from a story written by Mark and Jay Duplass, and rounds out his ensemble with friendly favorites, including Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Wyatt Russell, Tony Revolori, June Squibb, Amanda Crew, Andy Daly, and the voice of Margo Martindale. On paper, that’s a recipe for success. In reality, it’s a frazzled, predictable, if well-meaning, wedding reception dramedy.
Eloise McGarry (Kendrick) is in a state of emotional vulnerability. Recently dumped via text message by her boyfriend Teddy (Russell), she agonizes over whether she’ll attend her best friend’s wedding, notably as her former lover is the bride’s brother. After much deliberation, Eloise does agree to attend, but with a noted demotion. She’s now seated at Table 19, the distant, cobbled together assortment of “randoms” which isn’t necessarily the life of the party. Joining Eloise are Jerry (Robinson) and Bina Kepp (Kudrow), a bickering pair of diner owners in an undersexed marriage; Walter Thimble (Merchant), an ungainly ex-con trying to readjust to society through this unexpected invitation; Renzo Eckberg (Revolori), a horny teenager desperately trying to lose his virginity; and Jo Flanagan (Squibb), the bride’s retired first nanny.
They’re an assorted bunch of oddballs, and they naturally don’t get along at first. But through a series of awkward reveals and uncomfortable confessions, they learn to appreciate one another in a wedding that couldn’t care less about their company. It’s “The Breakfast Club” meets “Wedding Crashers,” without the depth of the former or the comedic spunkiness of the latter.
“Table 19” is a perfectly fine Redbox rental, possibly even a fair Netflix discovery. It’s gentle, occasionally charming and generally harmless — it aims to please and it’s not necessarily unsuccessful. It’ll be an agreeable, undemanding Saturday matinee. If you’re expecting more from the talent involved, however, you’ll find yourself a little disappointed by the rather bumbling banquet.
The cast is ready and game, but the material rarely plays to their strengths. Beyond Kendrick, who is basically playing the same cute-but-persistently-dismayed character she’s done several times already, everyone else is performing comedic outlines parading as real people. Revolori is the hapless dweeb, Robinson is the sarcastic naysayer, Kudrow is his stern straight woman, Squibb is the older outsider and Merchant is the bizarre question mark. None of them are bad, but none of them are living up to their full potential. Only Merchant, Kudrow and Robinson earn consistent laughs, with the former comfortable at playing bizarre weirdos, no matter what, and the latter two actually sorta feeling like a real couple, almost in spite of their ham-fisted dialogue.
Blitz is usually comfortable in this territory. He’s wonderful at finding the balance between thorniness and relatability, clumsiness and its underlying good-heartedness, and he doesn’t get enough credit. But “Table 19” is too tonally shallow and erratic to work in his favor, and too quick to fall back on sitcom-y schtick. And you might get whiplash as it jumps between lighthearted silliness and drastic dramatics. Yet, even though they’re not well-layered, Blitz does care for these characters and he wants you to care about them, too. In its best moments, there’s a casual, relaxed appeal to “Table 19,” especially around the second act, but those moments are usually fleeting.
“Table 19” isn’t necessarily the worst invitation you could get, but you’d better think twice before RSVP-ing. In his first narrative feature in 10 years, Blitz doesn’t find the comfortable balance between self-conscious weirdness and overpowering emotional resonance seen throughout his other, better works. It’s not an outright disaster, but it’s not the shining success it should’ve been. No matter what you do, sometimes it rains on your wedding day. [C+]