As we discussed our opinions of Table 19 following its screening, one person mentioned that there are hardly any romantic comedies being made these days. After thinking about it for a moment, I realized the only one I could think of from 2016 was Deadpool. It is too a romantic comedy, just a guy’s romantic comedy. Upon further research, it turns out she was right. According to a box office performance chart I found (the-numbers.com), there were twenty-nine in the entire world and just three of them took in more than $10 million (How to be Single, Mother’s Day, Bridget Jones’ Baby). 2015 was even worse with just twenty-three total and only one cracking $10 million (Focus) and Focus wasn’t even really a rom-com. Of course, after watching a movie like Table 19, I can understand why there are so few.
(This is your SPOILER WARNING for a movie that deserves to be spoiled.)
Table 19 is the story of six people who are kind of terrible people sharing the worst table at a wedding. Imagine the island of misfit toys from the old Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer claymation, and imagine that you also wanted to punch the toys in the neck.
- Misfit #1: Eloise (Anna Kendrick), the former maid of honor who lost that gig due to being dumped by the bride’s brother (and best man), Teddy (Wyatt Russell). Eloise is also our main character and the person who the other misfits sorta, kinda rally behind, but only out of pity. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
- Misfit #2: A retired old nanny, Jo (June Squibb), who took care of the bride and Teddy when they were children. If you think it’s odd that someone’s nanny from years in the past would get invited to someone’s wedding, you are correct.
- Misfits #3 and #4: Jerry and Bina Kepp (Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow, respectively), a couple who own a diner that openly wonder why they were even invited and also openly hate each other. They have no stated connection to the bride and groom, but might be acquainted with other diner owners who were also invited.
- Misfit #5: The bride’s uncle, Walter (Stephen Merchant), an ex-con who stole $125k from the bride’s father, but did so for a good reason (which is revealed late in the film). He also fills the creepy/awkward uncle cliché we always hear about at weddings.
- Misfit #6: Finally, there’s 17-year old misfit, Renzo (Tony Revolori). Not Renzo and family, just Renzo. He’s there alone because his mother thought he’d have a better chance of meeting women at the wedding than at his junior prom. Apparently, his mom is an idiot. Like the Kepps, if he has a connection to the bride and groom, I completely missed it.
That’s five out of six people who are inexplicably at this wedding…and Eloise, who probably fits in that category as well. Don’t worry though, they will waive away this bizarre invite list as being “the people who should have known to respectfully decline the invitation, but send a gift anyway” as explained by Eloise. So, really, that’s seven or eight gremlins at this party, depending on if the mother of the bride invited them or the bride and groom themselves did.
I realize I’m not the target audience for this type of movie, but I’d hesitate to say that women are the target audience either. I went into this movie only wanting to laugh a bit and enjoy Anna Kendrick. My first want was satisfied, but not the second, as Eloise just isn’t an enjoyable character. The first thing we see her doing is debating with herself over what to respond with on the wedding invitation. She’s obviously fretting over who will be there, but it’s not long into the reception (which encompasses the entire movie) when we find out it’s Teddy. The next thing we see her doing is having her meet-cute with an Australian chick-magnet who calls himself Huck. If you think this is the romantic part of this comedy, think again. They will have a couple of cutesy moments, culminating in a passionate kiss, which sets the audience up into thinking Huck will rescue her in the climax, but the exact opposite happens. After the kiss, he vanishes for the rest of the film until a terrible and highly predictable reveal near the end in which we find out he’s the groom in another reception happening at the same place. And we only see him for a moment in that reveal. The words you are looking for are “I need some fucking cake.”
Rendering the Huck storyline even more irrelevant is the true romantic component of this film – that of Teddy and Eloise in which Teddy is initially presented as a complete shitbag. He dumped Eloise over text and hooked up with a snobby bitch that was second in line for maid of honor prior to Eloise’s dumping. Plus, Teddy is ugly and stupid and up until the reason for the breakup is discussed (at length), you hate this guy and are rooting for Huck and Eloise to end up together.
(Side note: Wyatt Russell is the offspring of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. Based on his nasty beard and smashed nose, which he got playing hockey, I was sure he was the offspring of Owen Wilson. This is what you focus on when a movie’s plot and characters suck.)
To be fair, the movie is fine until the big reveal which doubles as the standard rom-com misunderstanding. The reveal is when this movie takes a really dark turn and stops being funny. In a really bad moment of writing, Jo announces that Eloise is pregnant after witnessing Eloise puke after Teddy’s bad best-man speech and because “nannies know these things.” Soon after, Teddy and Eloise get into in the hallway, each accusing the other of sucking and being the cause of the breakup. The whole thing revolves around the pregnancy in which Teddy misunderstood Eloise saying he’d be a terrible father and Eloise misunderstanding Teddy’s response to what she actually said. This point of the movie is supposed to be where you feel bad for the couple, but you really only feel bad for the fetus having crappy parents. Hilarious, right? I have no idea how anybody, male or female, doesn’t walk out of the theater at this point in the film.
Are you wondering about the other misfits at this point? Well, don’t. Their little subplots are irrelevant and most of the comedy around them falls on its face. Renzo spends the entire movie hitting on what appear to be the only two single girls outside of Eloise, neither of which wants anything to do with him. Also, he falls down a lot. Get it? Uncle Walter wanders around making people uncomfortable and lies about who he really is for most of the time. The Kepp’s take shots at each other whenever possible and we eventually find out Bina came to the reception to have an affair because her marriage has basically been one big sham. Don’t worry though, the relationship is healed by shower sex (I am not making that up). After spending the first half of the movie with these people, you realize they are all kind of loathsome people and don’t really care that they each get a form of redemption at the end because, again, why the hell were they even invited to this movie, er…wedding.
I will give the film a couple of points for some gags that did hit my funny bone, one in particular involving a red jacket that runs the course of the film. Like I said, I found myself laughing a bit early in the film and it’s too bad it didn’t commit to being a straight-up goofy wedding comedy about those weirdos in the back that everyone questions being invited. But I’m going to take those points away because the wedding reception ends up just being the backdrop for a downer of a story. They don’t even use the reception as punchline or plot device, it’s just where they are. Plus, like the feel of the movie, it goes on forever. It appears to start around midday and goes well into the night, at one point, the misfits leave the reception entirely for a least of a couple of hours.
Where this movie really fails is that it feels way too much like nearly every wedding reception you have ever been to – awkward, long, cheesy toasts, mediocre food, people judging each other, and definitely not funny. You mostly go out of a sense of obligation rather than because it sounds like a hoot. Luckily, you are under no such obligation to attend this particular reception because we’re all misfits who never should have been invited anyway.
Rating: Ask for all but fifty cents back and stop asking why they don’t make rom-coms anymore. Ask instead why they don’t make good ones.