Written by the Duplass brothers, two filmmakers who are no strangers to indie film with productions such as Cyrus, Jeff, Who Lives at Home and the Sundance hit, The Puffy Chair, their latest film, a somewhat romantic dramedy called Table 19, feels far too self-conscious for its own good. Filled with plenty of shots of the film’s characters, a group of misfits brought together at a wedding reception, sitting and gazing out into nothingness, soundtracked by guitars and banjos, there’s a strange, manufactured quality to proceedings.
At times, it feels like the brothers have gone out of their way to ensure it feels like as much of an independent production as possible, and the result is something that feels awkward. There a number of occasions, for example, where characters just fall over for no other reason than what I can only assume are attempts at creating some kind of quirky sense of humour. It may be quite chucklesome the first time it happens, but it becomes unfunny to the point of deathly silence by the third time someone does it.
What doesn’t help matters is the fact that the central characters we follow over the course of the film’s breezy 90-minutes, feel tremendously unbelievable. You have the former nanny who has the gang come to her room to smoke a joint, the adolescent is looking to have sex with somebody (cheered on by his mother over the phone), an ex-con, and the former girlfriend of the best man.
The only characters who have any sense of reality about them are the long married couple played by Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson, who have come to a point in their relationship where their rut may end up tearing them apart. However, it’s a relationship that’s poorly underdeveloped in favour of the others.
All things considered, the film does have a certain charm to it; mainly due to the central performances – Stephen Merchant steals the show as the strange Walter – which go a long way in saving the story’s weaker elements. Quite sweet in places, with a couple of laughs along the way, Table 19 is by no means a complete disaster, but is far from anything special either. It doesn’t quite work as a piece of cinema, but if you were to catch it on the television one night, it would probably prove quite a welcome surprise.
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