RB score: 9/10
The bride allocated the “randoms” to Table 19, the table farthest in the back of the room, even farther away from the action than the kids’ table. The cast of this movie is even more random, with Anna Kendrick playing Eloise; the rejected girlfriend of the best man and brother of the bride; Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow as a married couple who manage a diner, bored with life and each other; June Squibb as the elderly former nanny of the bride and her brother; Stephen Merchant as a glib but somewhat fragile former prison inmate, now struggling to fit into society somehow, and Tony Revolo as a lonely teenager trying to meet girls while having his mother control every facet of his life, and call his phone continually to offer advice.
At first, the interactions among the people seated at Table 19, both among themselves and with others, are predictably, and amusingly, awkward, then the movie takes a screwball turn as Eloise has a messy confrontation with her ex, Teddy (played by Wyatt Russell). Eloise convinces us, herself, and eventually her tablemates that she doesn’t care anything for Teddy, and from what we see of him we don’t know what she saw in him to begin with. Then Eloise, who has been spending more time away from Table 19 then sitting there, has a chance encounter with a very handsome stranger which turns into conversation which turns into a turn around the dance floor. Jo, the nanny, picks up on the magic between Eloise and the strange man, and also is the only person at the table to observe that Eloise rushed from the table sick because she is pregnant.
Here is where the skill of the screenplay and the cast really start to take off. You had to wonder at the beginning of the movie what would be involved with a cast of such experienced comedic actors such as Kudrow, Merchant and Robinson. Only comedic actors know how to walk the tightrope between comedy and emotional connection, that is required for the ensemble to form a believeable bond during the day of the wedding… which they do. When the others at the table learn that Teddy dumped Elaine when she told him she was pregnant, they stage their own confrontation with Teddy, who, as it turns out, tells a different version of the breakup. There is no reconciliation during this scene, although there is mayhem and a ruined wedding cake. The five tablemates look very gloomy as they leave the reception area of the hotel and ride the elevator back to their rooms. While the movie’s threads also seem to unravel in a random fashion, at first, and new and odd revelations start to surface about each of them, these random threads become that connection that gives way to respect and compassion for each other, and an emotional investment for the viewer.
To give more plot points is to give away too much and spoil for the viewer, the satisfaction of watching the progression as it unfolds. I can’t think of another movie that better captures the risks and joys of simply living life, of how other people are always someone more than how we perceive them, whether we’ve known them for minutes or years, and how we often have to make glaring mistakes, even repeated mistakes, and definitely a mess or two, in pursuit of our lives. Underneath the comedy and the emotions, the movie brings home how inaccurate perceptions of the past influence one’s state of mind more than any actual events or people do.
You’ll never show up at a wedding reception with quite the same frame of mind ever again. 9/10, maybe 9.5/10. Deduction is for making the teen boy character overly one dimensional. Still a great film, and one which will merit many re-viewings.