Cinema Dispatch: Table 19

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Table 19 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed by Jeffrey Blitz

Table what now?  Has anyone heard of this movie before like a week ago?  Hell, did anyone see a trailer of this or is its target audience people who couldn’t see Beauty and the Beast because it was sold out but made the effort to get out of the damn house anyway so are going to see something else?  I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty niche market to go after!  Well just because no one has heard of the damn thing doesn’t mean it’s a BAD movie.  Hell, Shawshank Redemption was a HUGE flop and now it’s one of the most beloved and overexposed films of all time!  Okay, so this probably isn’t gonna be THAT good, but maybe it’ll still manage to be rather enjoyable.  Let’s find out!!

The table in question refers to a table at the wedding reception, and the nineteenth one is the LAST table in the hierarchy of wedding guests.  While all the important people are at the first few tables and all the REAL guests are in the latter ones, the ones who were invited but weren’t expected to show up were placed at the TABLE OF INFINITE SHAME!!  The guest list includes the brides former babysitter (June Squibb) which seems kinda mean spirited, a couple who worked with the one of the dads of the married couple many years ago (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), a family member who screwed someone out of A LOT of money (Stephen Merchant), and… some teenager (Tony Revolori).  Honestly, I don’t remember why he’s even there in the first place, but his shtick is that he’s horny all the time so maybe he’s on hand to fill a cliché quota.  ANYWAY!  There’s still one more person at the table.  The best friend of the bride (Anna Kendrick)!?  SAY WHAT!?  She’s ALSO the former Maid of Honor and is personally responsible for the seating arrangements!?  As it turns out, there was a major falling out, particularly in regards to the brother of the bride (Wyatt Russel), and while she ultimately decided to still go, she’s stuck with the losers and rejects who probably resent being considered losers and rejects.  Will shenanigans inevitably ensue now that a Molotov cocktail of resentment has landed at the table with people who pretty much have nothing to lose here?   Just what exactly happened between our heroine of sorts and the happy couple’s family?  WHAT ARE THEY GONNA DO TO THE WEDDING CAKE!?

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“We’re all in agreement.  The cake had it coming, and we will never speak of this again…”

I don’t think anyone was expecting… well, ANYTHING from this movie considering how little fanfare it got before it was released, but I actually kind of liked it!  It’s not a great movie as it ends up losing a lot of steam by the second half, but for something that I literally never heard of until I saw it on the theater’s marquee; it ends up standing out as far as comedies I’ve seen this year.  Now to be fair, it’s not what I’d call original as indie films like this are a dime-a-dozen on the festival circuit and I’ve seen better stuff that tries to mine this particular brand of deeply human dark comedy (*cough* Don’t Think Twice *cough*), but you know what?  I’ve had to sit through Rings, Fist Fight, and The Shack this year; all of which are terrible in the exact same way as a dozen other shitty movies I’ve had to sit through doing this job.  I’ll take SLIGHTLY unexpected and decently humorous over any of that crap any day.

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I can’t help but think this scene would be funnier if there were more penises on screen…

Now I don’t want to oversell this movie as it’s entirely disposable and certainly not something you need to run out and see.  It’s a character based Dramedy which isn’t particularly deep, but it does have a level of humanity and authenticity to the characters that brings it above and beyond a lot of other comedies out there; especially the raunchy ones like the aforementioned Fist Fight which I assume had to of been made by someone who’s never actually MET another human being.  Not all of the characters at the titular nineteenth table work which we’ll talk about soon enough, but most of them do and they a level of realistic sadness to them that allows it to be sad for most of its running time but not overly depressing; a fine line to walk which I think this film succeeds at doing.  In particular, I really liked Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson as a married couple who have long since given up on each other, though the former seems to realize it a lot more than the latter who seems to be in denial about everything until he’s forced to acknowledge it.  I also thought that June Squibb was excellent in a role that could have been entirely throwaway as she’s the extremely nice old lady, but she’s such a capable actor and the script knows just the right tone to hit with the role that it manages to break away from that cliché and even subvert it to a certain extent.  Hell, she manages to figure out a big movie cliché even before I could see it, and it wasn’t that the script was holding information back; I just wasn’t looking for it.  It’s simple stuff like that where the characters in this are noticeably better than what you’d be expecting from a movie like this.

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You know you’ve got a real talent on your hand when your actor has played against Jack Nicholson AND Triumph the Insult Comic Dog!

Where the movie starts to waver is when it starts relying on wedding movie shtick and just some genuinely poor writing for some of the characters.  For the most part, the plot seems to be a realistic reflection of something you’d see in a movie like this where the tropes and romanticism of Hollywood are stripped away… but by the end it wraps up way too easily for everyone.  It’s not even bitter sweet, it’s just plain old saccharin and it doesn’t really fit with what this movie started out as.  The absolute nadir of the writing involves Tony Revolori’s character who was great in Dope but is saddled with an uncomfortable and unfunny role to play as the exceedingly horny “nerd” who wants to get laid but can’t even hold a conversation with a woman without bring up his penis or trying desperately to display his perceived higher value.  It feels like something that was ripped out of an early draft of Wedding Crashers, and it’s not like a horn dog character CAN’T be funny (*cough* Johnny Bravo *cough*), but here it feels completely out of place and the movie gets derailed every time he shows up.  Other than that, the writing is just kinda meh as it goes along; stopping the movie dead in the middle for some extended quite reflecting before wrapping everything up with a nice little bow to finish things off.  Maybe the writer just ran out of steam after setting up such a solid first act, or maybe I was too hopeful that it could keep up that momentum the whole time.  Either way, it’s disappointing considering how much the first act really caught me by surprise.

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“If you would have me m’lady, I would be honored if you would let me have this dance.  Also, I wouldn’t mind a blowjob if you are so inclined.”

Speaking of the writer, the impression I got when watching this movie was that it’s an earnest attempt by a young filmmaker (maybe a script they’ve tinkered with in college) that just so happened to attract the right talent to get a modest wide release before going on to make the film that will REALLY make their name in the industry; like if Diablo Cody had written a movie before Juno or if one of Emily Hagins’s films were picked up by a major studio after it premiered at SXSW.  By the way, I’m not just pulling this out of my ass to sound pretentious and shit.  That’s MOSTLY true, but I have other reasons!  As I said, as much as I find the characters relatable and human, the script itself isn’t really up to that same level and plays out a lot more simplistically than the rest of the movie would have you believe.  There’s also not a lot going on here cinematography wise as everything is rather bare bones and lacks in any discernible style which it’s a TERRIBLE match for a movie about painfully ordinary people, but it makes for a rather uninteresting viewing experience; especially when things slow down drastically in the second half.  Unfortunately though, this film was NOT done by someone fresh on the scene; rather it’s written by the freaking Duplass brothers and directed by a guy who did a bunch of episode of The Office.  You might say that it’s unfair to judge a movie based on who’s involved with it, but for me the presence of the two biggest names in Indie Cinema carries with it a certain weight that can’t be easily extricated from the film itself.  For guys who have written as many films as they have and have had their hands in several high profile projects, you’d think they’d have the experience to write a tighter script, but this comes off as somewhat amateurish which is less charming from dudes in their forties than it would be from a newcomer.  Then again, it seems like this script was shelved for since 2009 before getting dusted off and filmed in 2015, so maybe they were still working out the kinks in the formula they spend the following years perfecting.  Either way, finding this out has made me the slightest bit less forgiving of its flaws which admittedly aren’t TOO egregious for a movie like this, but then again a movie like this shouldn’t be coming from filmmakers and writers THAT experienced in the first place.

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Oh look!  They even included a dance number at the end!

There’s really not too much to say about this movie (hence the 400 word rant about the writers of it) and it’s honestly gonna be forgotten by EVERYONE soon enough.  If you’re into these kind of small scale dramas or are interested in experiencing the entire Duplass Brothers Oeuvre then… sure.  Check it out when it’s on Netflix or winds up on one of those actor film collections you find at Walmart which has maybe one movie you’ve heard of and four films that no one has heard of but the DVD Company got for dirt cheap.  Trust me; the Anna Kendrick one will have The Mayor, The Marc Pease Experience, and this film for only $7.99 within the next decade.

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