Friday, March 3, 2017

Movie with Abe: Table 19

Table 19
Directed by Jeffrey Blitz
Released March 3, 2017

Almost everyone has experienced the feeling of showing up to a friend or family member’s wedding only to find themselves seated at what my parents endearingly refer to as a the “punishment table.” There are plenty of friends or other people in the same category at other tables nearby or closer to the action, yet for some reason, they’ve been deemed guilty of some unknown offense and relegated to the worst seats in the house with a handful of other allegedly random tablemates. The meaner way to put it is to refer to those people as those who should have known to RSVP no, and fortunately this concept proves a great premise for an entertaining comedy about the unexpected benefits of ending up at that table.

Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick) wouldn’t ordinarily be described as a misfit. In fact, she was supposed to be the maid of honor at her friend Francie’s wedding. When she got dumped by Francie’s brother Teddy (Wyatt Russell), she recused herself, making way for Nikki (Amanda Crew) to take her place. When she shows up to the wedding, she finds herself seated close to the bathroom with a strange assortment of attendees: bickering diner owners (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), an overeager teenager (Tony Revolori), a recently-released convict (Stephen Merchant), and the bride’s old nanny (June Squibb). As they realize just how little they mean to the happy couple, they develop a special bond that only outcasts can share.

Movies about weddings are usually fun, and while this one focuses a lot less on the bride (and barely at all on the groom) as compared with many others, it’s nice to see this atypical spotlight on those who don’t fit in and are forced to band together because they literally have no one else to talk to. This comedy does take the time to get to know each of its characters, allowing them a bit of backstory at the start and then giving them the chance to grow as a result of their experiences at this festive celebration. Eloise may be the main character, but this is really an ensemble effort both in terms of actors and characters.

Kendrick is a wonderful actress who has played roles like this before, and this part allows for her to really embrace the humorous nature of her situation. Those seated at her table are all terrific, with Kudrow and Robinson having fun together, Merchant playing weird just right, Squibb delivering a reliably formidable turn, and Revolori following up well on his memorable performance in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Russell contributes as well in an unexpectedly layered role, and while this film is prone to seemingly aimless and unadventurous drama, it pivots towards an affirming and endearing ending that makes attending feel much more worthwhile.


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