“Table 19” is a second-rate “The Breakfast Club.” The latter moves at a slow, natural pace, allowing its big moments to build off of small and meaningful character interactions. The former speeds from climax to climax, with dialogue that talks about its characters emotions rather than shows them. The result: This picture about adults at a wedding feels more juvenile than a picture about high schoolers in detention.
Our protagonist, Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick), certainly feels like a high school drama queen, though. She has been invited to the wedding of her oldest friend, Francie (Rya Meyers), but has also been unceremoniously relegated to a table with other undesirables because she’s the ex of the bride’s brother, Teddy (Wyatt Russell). Eloise despises Teddy for dumping her over text, but she may not be so innocent herself.
While trying to avoid Teddy, Eloise befriends his and Francie’s old nanny, Jo (June Squibb), ex-con Walter (Stephen Merchant), husband-and-wife diner owners Bina (Lisa Kudrow) and Jerry (Craig Robinson), and lovelorn Renzo (Tony Revolori). These outsiders form a merry band, but their moments of insight and connection are fleeting and shallow. They only ever talk about someone’s past or about how one of them feels. They never convey why these personalities are drawn to each other for any reason other than they are the losers. How boring.
“Table 19” takes a while to even focus on the majority of its main characters, though. A lot of the film’s first third involves Eloise finding a potential love interest, a handsome wedding crasher who calls himself “Huck” (Thomas Cocquerel). Yet the film’s heavy setup for a new romance goes nowhere, and all we are left with is wasted screen time.
The only two characters that do make a lasting impression are Jo and Walter. Jo is a sweetheart who finds herself lonely and unaccomplished in old age, and laments she hasn’t even left a mark on Francie and Teddy. Walter is an awkward, quirky guy, and Francie and Teddy’s cousin — his struggles to fit in offer the film’s best and heartiest laughs. At one point, he ends up donning a red jacket that looks exactly like the jackets the servers at the wedding wear, leading to some amusing moments in which the employees demand that he assist them in waiting tables.
Renzo is initially a promising source of humor with his woeful attempts at wooing girls. He attempts to get a dance by bragging about his penis size to a potential partner, and later misinterprets a lady’s sarcastic comments as an indication he will get laid. But he isn’t characterized as more than an awkward geek, and Revolori’s talents are wasted.
Bina and Jerry are the least interesting of the bunch. Their marital problems are vague and clichéd, as the film portrays Jerry as a distant husband but does little to explore why he has faltered. They end up just being in the background, and the movie full-on stops when they take center stage.
Surprisingly, “Table 19” does succeed in its final moments at achieving a satisfying catharsis. Not in its climax, in which two lovers clumsily profess their love for each other, but in its falling action, when one of the film’s better characters gets a beautiful pay off. If only the rest of the movie were as lovely.