Table 19 (2017)

(On Cable TV, December 2017) It’s bad form for a reviewer to suggest that a film doesn’t live up to a wholly imagined alternative, but watching the first half of Table 19, I was struck at how the film seemed to work as a single-setting story. As various strangers gather around Table 19 of a lavish wedding’s reception, they gradually come to reveal their secrets and figure out the link between them. They all have backstories, quirks, aspirations and unfinished business—could all of this be resolved around a single table? For a while, Table 19 almost gets it as a stylistic exercise, as characters join or leave the table and their backstories are exposed. Then the film seems to lose interest in a potentially intriguing premise, and the action dissolves in far more conventional scenery-hopping. The second half of the film is far more conventional than the first, and even the combined charm and comedy of actors such as Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow, June Squibb, Stephen Merchant and Wyatt Russell can’t quite rescue the film from dull mediocrity. Table 19 sadly leaves table 19 behind, going elsewhere in order to deliver a rather happy conclusion. It doesn’t help that some of the characters are too irritating to live—Merchant’s character, in particular, is annoying beyond belief and sabotages much of the film’s otherwise intriguing first half. Reviewers shouldn’t tell filmmakers how to make their movies, but this being said—I’s like to see a version of Table 19 in which the camera remains within a ten-meter radius of the titular table. Make it like a theatre piece, and the film may keep some of the intensity that it promised in its first half.

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