Tiny profundities, clever twists and a few giggles are the hallmarks of “Table 19,” a wedding comedy with on-the-nose casting and slight, uneven charms.
It started life as an off-center idea from the Duplass Brothers, of “Cyrus,” “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” and “The Puffy Chair.” Tell the story of strangers, seated together at a table at a wedding reception where none of them rated highly enough in the happy couple’s eyes to be seated closer to the bride and groom.
There’s the unhappily married diner owners (Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson), there because the father of the bride runs diners. Jo (June Squibb of “Nebraska”) was “Nanny Jo,” who helped raise the bride long ago. Walter (Stephen Merchant) is an ex-con nephew of the father of the bride. Renzo (Tony Revolori of “Grand Budapest Hotel”)? He’s an ill-dressed teen on the make with even slimmer connections to the Michigan island resort nuptials.
And then there’s Eloise, played by Anna Kendrick at her most put-upon. She’s the one who bluntly recognizes the Siberia they’ve all been exiled to. Why? She helped plan the wedding. She’s the bride’s oldest friend, and was her maid of honor. But when you split up with the bride’s dopey/hunk best man brother (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt and Goldie) a month before the Big Event, Table 19 is what you get.
It’s “the table that should have known to ‘RSVP regrets,'” she cracks. And she’s right. Everybody is worried about the ex-maid of honor “causing a scene.” Yeah, it’s coming. They just make us wait for it…”wait for it.”
Running gags include Renzo’s pep-talking, micro-managing mom (Margo Martindale) whom we only hear in a string of needy, co-dependent cell phone calls. Bino (Kudrow) has worn a jacket that’s exactly the same color as the wait staff at the resort hotel. “Could you take these to table 5?” AWK-ward.
There’s another wedding scheduled for another hall in the hotel, and we repeatedly glimpse the mariachi band that they’ve booked. The Millner-Grotsky wedding has its own ’80s cover band, even though the marrying couple is too young to have experienced Cyndi Lauper, The Go-Gos or The Cars first-hand.
And then there’s the hunk Huck (Thomas Cocquerel) who spies Eloise staring at her ex, and delivers this judgement.
“Nobody deserves a full minute of your attention unless they’re giving it back.”
Might he be her emotional rescue? Will Renzo, sporting a fur bow-tie, get anywhere with the one girl his age at the reception? Will Walter reveal his criminal past? Will Jerry and Bino squabble it out?
“You have a pathological aversion to answering a direct question! You always answer a question with a question!”
Will anybody remember “Nanny Jo?”
“You children are such a disappointment.”
If you know the Duplass Brothers, you know the obvious questions aren’t the ones that’ll be answered, the obvious dilemmas have complications. And everybody — from the callous bride and groom to the jilting best man, the random adult (Andrew Daly) appalled at Renzo’s come-ons to a stranger’s daughter to the Aussie-accented Huck (“Nobody names their kid ‘Huck’ any more.”) has a point of view, and one worth hearing.
That’s a lot to squeeze into an 87 minute film, and not all of it works and much of what does work doesn’t really gel until the later acts. Kendrick, Merchant and Squibb’s casting are all a little too on-the-nose, and young Russell is a bit out of his acting league with this crew.
But if you’re willing to sit “in the upper teens” at a wedding you were only invited to as an afterthought, “Table 19” has its charms and its rewards, and they go beyond a slice of wedding cake and dancing to a cover of “Hold Me Now” by The Thompson Twins.
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, drug use, language and some brief nudity
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow, June Squibb, Stephen Merchant,
Credits:Written and directed by Jeffrey Blitz, based on a story by Mark and Jay Duplass. A Fox Searchlight release.
Running time: 1:27