'Table 19' Review: Anna Kendrick's new indie comedy is too bland to be memorable
There are three kinds of bad movies. There's something like Nocturnal Animals, which seems to have a vendetta against its own audience. Its poor quality feels like an act of malice. Then there's the cartoonish mistakes, like Collateral Beauty, which is such an earnest failure on all counts that it's hard to feel anything but pity for it.
Then there's the plain, awkward movie that isn't wrong enough to be offensive. It's the kind of film that inspires nothing more than a shrug or a puzzled "hmm" walking out of the theater. Table 19, director Jeffrey Blitz's latest feature starring Anna Kendrick, is that kind of bad movie.
Eloise, played by Kendrick, is an odd duck attending a wedding with deep regrets. See, she's the oldest friend of the bride, but she recently broke up with the bride's brother, Teddy (Wyatt Russell). She quit the maid of honor gig in a blaze of shame, leaving her to be stranded at the slush table — the titular table 19 — during what feels like an endless wedding reception.
Joining her at the losers' table are a married couple with marital issues (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), a former nanny of the bride (June Squibb), a strange kid who just wants to find love (Tony Revolori) and a Brit who's as socially inept as he is tall (Stephen Merchant). Each has their own story, handled with inconsistent effectiveness. But their tales are mostly in service of Eloise's, as they come together to help work through her feelings for Teddy.
Table 19 is, in turns, a madcap physical comedy, an indie dramedy, a marital drama and a teen movie. It succeeds at being none of these things, making it a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, in film form. Unfortunately, this aimlessness makes it almost impossible to decipher what Blitz (who had screenplay help from Mark and Jay Duplass) was going for with this picture.
Eloise's story is mostly predictable — with one twist that Blitz manages to bungle by having Squibb's Nanny Jo spoil it too early — so the camera seems to be roaming around, trying to find another interesting story to tell. It runs right past most of them, leaving Squibb, Revolori and Merchant with underdeveloped character arcs that fizzle out too quickly, but eventually settles on watching Kudrow and Robinson.
The two play diner owners, Bina and Jerry Kepp, who struggle with love lost in their marriage. The story mostly hobbles along until the last quarter of the film, when it takes center stage and turns in some truly lovely moments. The dialogue is still stilted and inorganic, but Kudrow and Robinson sell the hell out of it.
Even that moment of interest is short-lived, as we shift back to Eloise's story — and that endless reception, which seemingly lasts for hours — and head toward the film's inevitable, cheesy conclusion. It's not worth getting worked up over; nothing about Table 19 is that terrible. But again, that's the movie's flaw: You won't remember it for good or for ill.
Table 19 hits theaters Friday.