Film Review: “Table 19”

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson
Directed By: Jeffrey Blitz
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 87 minutes
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars

The indie dramedy genre is generally characterized by it’s portrayal of a dysfunctional family, a haphazard group of friends or a bumbling arrangement of strangers in a scenario where there are multiple revelations, declarations and betrayals, soaked in sappy sentimentality and feel-good moments. Very rarely do the movies give audiences a cathartic release or genuinely move our hearts and soul. However, a few do. “Little Miss Sunshine” comes to mind. But most of these films are a dime a dozen, floundering on their own predictability or offering audiences brief, but humorous escapism. “Table 19” does both.

“Table 19” is named after the wedding table where the people who got an invitation, but should have known better and declined the offer, showed up. It’s the final table to be set and have it’s food delivered at the wedding. It’s brushed to the corner of the banquet hall, near the bathrooms and out of sight. The table 19 occupants are equally as random as their connection to the bride or groom. It almost makes you wonder if the nicer thing would have been to just never have sent an invitation at all.

There’s the heart-broken, former best friend of the bride and ex-maid of honor, Eloise (Kendrick). To her left is the Kepps, Bina (Kudrow) and Jerry (Robinson), whose marriage is struggling so bad they don’t even bother keeping up the appearance of smiling happiness or tolerable hatred anymore. To Eloise’s right is the adolescent Rezno (Tony Revolori), who’s only at the wedding because his mom didn’t think he had a chance of scoring a date or dance at his junior prom. Rounding out the table is ex-convict, Walter (Stephen Merchant) and a nanny from the past, Jo (June Squibb).

There’s a lot of emotion and backstory to unpack, but “Table 19” reveals a lot of it without sacrificing a handful of entertaining moments. Most of it unfolds naturally, in a manner that’s logical to the scant plot. Jerry loves mystery novels and wonders why such an oddball group would be stuck at the worst table. Eloise provides the answer, while withholding some secrets as to why she, a jilted lover, would bother showing up to the wedding her ex-boyfriend is at and why the couple even broke up in the first place.

Kendrick, as usual, is bubbly, likable and cute. It’d be interesting to see if she’d be able to pull off the villain in a movie someday. Merchant’s awkwardness as Walter provides some much needed comic relief that isn’t Jerry’s sardonic bluntness about the whole situation. The audience will surely relate with a lot of the characters on screen, but only because their plights are so generic. Despite my complaints about its reliance on indie tropes, I found myself enjoying the funny quirks each character carried as well as how the story resolved. The conclusion is the one thing I couldn’t quite predict.

The movie is written by the Duplass brothers, who’ve worked on a lot of indie dramedies, some bad and some well-written. What’s missing from their brand is the uncomfortable comedy that should be populating their envisioned settings. That’s where director Jeffrey Blitz comes in, whose work includes episodes of “The Office.” Together, the writers and director, create a passable movie, skirting on secondhand embarrassment, but nothing memorable or outstanding.

“Table 19” has some heartfelt performances and some jaunty comedic moments, but too often it finds itself lost in its own plotting and backstory. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if we’re supposed to enjoy the characters company because they’re emotionally disfigured buffoons or sympathetic damaged souls. Even at 87 minutes, it feels like it takes too long to tell a simple story. At times its sappy like any love story culminating at a wedding, but sometimes you feel like you’ve shown up to a wedding you don’t want to be at.


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Film Review: “Sausage Party”

Starring the voices of: Seth Rogen, Kristin Wiig and Salma Hayek
Directed by: Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 29 mins
Sony Pictures

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Have you ever thought about the food you eat? Until this morning I didn’t. I’ll explain that comment later.

As the lights come on, signaling a new day at the local supermarket, the various food items sing a song, paying homage to the food Gods and hoping that today will be day they are “chosen” to go into the Great Beyond. Among those singing are Frank (Rogen), one of many sausages in a package, Brenda (Wiig), the sexy bun that Frank pines for and a jar of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride). Honey Mustard is chosen but later returned. Instead of great tales of the Great Beyond, he begins to tell wide-eyed stories of horrible atrocities. Of course he is not taken seriously, which leads to some pretty tragic – and hilarious – results.

Sidesplittingly funny, the first half-hour of “Sausage Party” is a comedy masterpiece. With great jokes and an amazing musical number, the film delivers on all cylinders. However, when the “chosen” ones realize what the outside world has in store for them, it becomes a hit or miss comedy. And a filthy one. Parents who may think they are taking the little ones to see a family film about a talking hot dog are going to be in for a HUGE surprise.

That being said, there are some great things about the film. The voice cast is perfect. Besides the three mentioned above, you have Edward Norton as a Bagel, in constant conflict with David Krumholtz’s Middle Eastern flatbread, with additional great work from such familiar names as Salma Hayek, Bill Hader, Craig Robinson, James Franco and Paul Rudd. You even get a nice musical montage sung by…wait for it…Meatloaf himself.

The animation is well done and, overall, the film entertains. If you don’t have a problem learning that your bacon may be suffering when you throw it in the pan, I highly recommend it. Which reminds me. Every day I take a snack to eat mid-day to work, usually some raw veggies. This morning, I took some green peppers. And I must admit, I did take pause before I thrust my knife into them and sliced them up. Sorry my crispy, green buddies!