Table 19 is a sweet and quirky comedy with a whole lot of heart. Written by the Duplass brothers and directed by Jeffrey Blitz, the film has no antagonist. There's no villain in this story. That in itself is something you almost never see. In fact, the last movie I can remember like this is Lars and the Real Girl. Both films are about strange loners that find friendship in the oddest of places. They are fairly predictable and saccharine, but leave you with a smile and a little hope. That's a better takeaway than most of the depressing garbage I see.
Anna Kendrick stars as Eloise, a recently dumped millennial who decides to attend the wedding of her ex-boyfriend's (Wyatt Russell) sister. He is, of course, horrified to see her. Eloise finds herself placed at the back of the ballroom at Table 19, where all the castoffs have been schlepped together. First you have the Kepp's (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), a bickering couple who own a diner and haven't been in love for many years. Then there is Jo (June Squibb), the former nanny of the bride, a pot-smoking busy body with a generous spirit. Renzo (Tony Revolori) is a horny high school student with a furry bow-tie and Mom on his speed dial. Closing out the group of misfits is Walter (Stephen Merchant), the good natured black sheep of the bride's family with a big secret.
This cast is tremendous. Anna Kendrick drives the story, but each actor has their moment in the sun. The ensemble spends a lot of time together where they discover each other's backstory. Eloise's attendance at the wedding has a far greater purpose than you initially suspect. She's completely dismissive of her freaky companions at first, but learns that the kindness of strangers can brighten the darkest day. I am a huge fan of Stephen Merchant. His dry affability is on full display here.
Jay and Mark Duplass excel at writing these small, winsome stories. Every character they create, no matter how trivial, is memorable to a degree. From Baghead to their HBO show Togetherness, they make idiosyncrasy relatable. The weirdos at Table 19 are the forgotten, the taken for granted people that are normally ignored. The Duplass brothers believe these types of characters have the most important things to say. After all, who better to be objective than those who are always on the outside looking in?
From Fox Searchlight, Table 19 is not for grouches. This is a small film that takes place in limited settings. The character development and interaction is where the comedy lies. As stated, there's nothing or no one directly adversarial. I feel that may throw some audiences for a loop. Not every film needs a source of friction to add substance to cinema. One of my favorite scenes is a particularly tender conversation between Eloise and Jo. The young upstart, who thinks she's beyond help, gets advice from someone who's seen a thing or two in their day. Listening and caring seems like a lost art in this world. Table 19 shows how affective both can be to those in need.