Table 19, harmless as it is, brings to the spotlight the biggest problem I have with the work of the Duplass brothers: they’re so concerned with consistently producing output, and have access to such a pool of talent, that they forget about following the most basic rules of structure. Sure, rules are made to be broken and novelty is often a virtue in post-mumblecore, mainstream fare, but it’s not something to be leaned upon.
Basically, Table 19 feels like a first draft, and I suspect that’s because it was. It’s nowhere near as deep as it seems to think it is, nor is it funny enough to pave over the faux-depth. So what starts off as a silly comedy becomes insufferable before even reaching the halfway point.
The shame of it all is the squandered concept. Anna Kendrick – always charming, rarely convincing – plays Eloise, a former Maid of Honor who dropped out of the gig after having been dumped by the Best Man. Despite potential awkwardness she decides to attend her oldest friends’ wedding anyway, and finds herself placed at Table 19 (hey!), the spot reserved for quests held in lowest regard by the hosts. Around the table are a garden variety of losers. There’s the Kepps (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), a married couple who have lost their spark, Rezno Eckberg (Tony Revolori), a young man who sees the wedding as an opportunity to get laid, Jo Flanagan (June Squibb), the bride’s childhood nanny, and Walter Thimple (Stephen Merchant), an ex-con currently on leave from a halfway house.
What follows is only intermittently the zany comedy that should result from such a naturally funny and talented cast, and when it’s not it’s a quarter-cooked drama so diluted in concept that the emotional moments carry no weight at all. These aren’t characters, despite each needlessly having a last name. These are actors who had a free weekend.
There are a handful of laughs, most surrounding misunderstandings resultant of Lisa Kudrow’s outfit being similar to that of the catering team, or from Stephen Merchant just being weird, and I’m sure it’ll be enough for many audiences, but for me it feels indicative of lazy writing. Especially with the knowledge that the Duplass boys are clearly capable of so much more. Unfortunately, they seem content to just bang out another movie and move on to the next one. With a little more care, they could easily create something less fleeting.
To be fair, they only wrote the movie (Jeffrey Blitz directed), but the criticism stands.
Table 19 opens in Philly theaters today.
Author: Dan Scully
Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.