Whither the rom-com? One of Hollywood’s noblest, sturdiest genres has appeared to be going the way of the dodo in recent years, largely consigned to television as studios seem increasingly allergic to any project that can’t immediately spawn five sequels. A film like Jeffrey Blitz’s Table 19 should be a breath of fresh air at this point—pitched as a well-cast, pithy, slightly acidic ballad of love lost and reclaimed at a wedding. Unfortunately, it’s infuriatingly bad, a maddening attempt to cross a schlocky feel-good romance with a bitingly negative indie comedy.
The titular Table 19 is tucked in the back corner of a wedding reception, a spillover location for the random guests who inexplicably accepted an invite they probably should have ignored. It’s an odd-couple premise expanded to a bigger group—a motley crew of disaffected, embittered, and delusional types who, by the end of the movie, will surely be fast friends, like a matrimonial Breakfast Club. But where that movie found a perfect balance of sweet and sour, Table 19 doesn’t know whether it’s looking to depress or inspire, and so ends up failing in both regards.
Eloise (Anna Kendrick) is seemingly the most well-adjusted wedding guest, but the writer and director Jeffrey Blitz wants appearances to be deceiving. Table 19 starts out with Eloise wrestling over whether to RSVP, checking both the “yes” and “no” boxes on her invitation before setting the thing on fire in a fit of pique (and then instantly blowing the fire out). This is the first of many hammer blows Blitz delivers to the audience; we probably could have guessed at Eloise’s dilemma without her taking such drastic action. But Table 19 can’t do anything by half.