Saturday, March 11, 2017

'Table 19' review

It's always pretty easy to tell when a studio is dumping a movie. They'll either release it on a weekend where it stands no chance of being successful, or they'll throw it into theaters after several release date changes- either way, the studio is acknowledging that the film has no chance at being successful. After a rough awards season that saw both The Birth of a Nation and Jackie fail to connect (for very different reasons, obviously), Fox Searchlight is dumping a few of their duds before hitting the reset button on the next season. While I doubt that Wilson or Gifted will fare all that well, I can't imagine either being as much of a disaster as Table 19. Released into 868 theaters last weekend with absolutely zero fanfare, the Jeffrey Blitz-directed rom-com was dead on arrival, tanking at the box office and receiving ghastly reviews. And deservedly so- Table 19 is one of the very worst movies I've seen in a long time, a film so scattered and haphazard that it almost emerges with no redeemable qualities. While the winning cast led by Anna Kendrick, Wyatt Russell, and June Squibb try their best, this is a horribly misguided film that implodes on impact.

Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick) does not want to be at this wedding. Seriously- it's probably the last place she wants to be. After dating the bride's brother (Wyatt Russell) for two years, he dumped her over text, causing her to be removed from the position of maid of honor in favor of his new girlfriend. Eloise is disgracefully placed at the dreaded table 19, the table where misfits, weirdos, and "the people who should have known to RSVP their regrets" collide in spectacular fashion. In addition to Eloise, table 19 is also the temporary home of the feuding Kepps (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), socially awkward Renzo (Grand Budapest Hotel's Tony Revolori), ex-con cousin Walter (Stephen Merchant), and longtime nanny Jo Flanagan (June Squibb). As the wedding quickly turns disastrous for both Eloise and her tablemates, the gang of marital outcasts determine to make the best of the day, creating chaos and making some life-long friends in the process.

Table 19 is one of the most pointless movies I've ever seen. I somewhat regret the fact that I'm about to absolutely trash a rather slight comedy that simply tries to pleasant and entertaining, but this film is just such a brutal slog. It's 87 minutes in length, but it feels at least twice as long, and there were many times where I thought that this thing would never end. Table 19 is simply excruciating to watch, and the fact that it's all so trite and cliched only makes it worse. Sure, there are a few moments here that emerge as thoughtful or humorous. But the vast majority of this dreadful comedy is either unfunny, random, or incoherent from a story perspective, creating a narrative that bounces around before settling on a forced happy ending. It's groan-inducing, mind-numbing stuff.

And the worst part is that I actually like this cast quite a bit. Anna Kendrick is a consistently terrific actress, and in the past, I've loved her performances in films like 50/50, Pitch Perfect 2, and even something silly like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Here, she's wasted on a character who is as unlikable and smug as she is poorly written. Eloise is all over the map, and the "twist" involving her character is so monumentally stupid that it makes the whole movie even more unbearable. Wyatt Russell has been great in films like 22 Jump Street and Everybody Wants Some!!, and he's actually pretty solid in this one, even if Teddy Millner is another underwritten character (hint: every single character in Table 19 is poorly developed in some shape or form). Other highlights from the cast include June Squibb as a pot-smoking nanny and Tony Revolori as the furry bow tie-wearing weirdo of the bunch. Meanwhile, I think it's safe to say that Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow, and Stephen Merchant (who just gave an excellent performance in Logan) all could have given their talents to a much more compelling, fresh comedy. Instead, they're wasted in this mess.

Table 19 is so lackadaisically paced and incomprehensible that I'm almost certain it was butchered in the editing room. Not that Jeffrey Blitz or the Duplass Brothers had much to work with in the first place- this is a pretty dumb premise right from the start. But you can see the film stretching to make sense of a misshapen disaster, and the result is painful to watch. Considering the amount of times characters say "What the fu..." before being cut off, I'm pretty sure that the studio chopped this down to a PG-13, and it was so noticeable that you start to wonder if anyone even thought this movie was worth saving by the end. Table 19 establishes story threads that serve no purpose, introduces characters that have no reason to be in the movie, and makes abrupt choices without any semblance of buildup in the narrative. It's a film that is actively bad on a regular basis, and the fact that it tries to make a shift to emotional pathos in the final act does nothing to make matters better.

Considering the poor box office results, I'm guessing that not too many audience members were tricked into seeing this trainwreck. But if you were considering checking out Table 19 on the hope that it would be a fun, pleasant watch- you've been warned. It's essentially a series of comedy sketches that don't work, which is bad enough before things get even worse thanks to a series of forced emotional notes. It barely feels like a film, and it is awful in pretty much every way imaginable. I didn't have high expectations, but during the first thirty minutes of this movie, my jaw was on the floor. Table 19 is that bad, and not even a terrific ensemble has a chance of saving it from the hellish depths of cinematic mediocrity.

THE FINAL GRADE:  D                                              (3.7/10)

Images courtesy of Fox Searchlight

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