Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Logan,” the latest (and greatest) Wolverine flick, the time travel teen angst movie “Before I Fall,” the animated “Ballerina,” the quirky “Table 19” with Anna Kendrick and the controversial Christian movie “The Shack.”
“People do weird things at weddings,” says Huck (Thomas Cocquerel), a handsome stranger who takes Eloise (Anna Kendrick) for a spin on the dance floor in the almost-rom-com “Table 19.” Maybe that’s true, but in the case of this movie, they do quirky and sometimes unpredictable things, but weird? Not quite.
On the day of her childhood friend’s wedding Eloise (Kendrick) repeats the mantra, “Today will not suck.” She may be close to the bride but is attending the wedding begrudgingly. Her ex-boyfriend Teddy (Wyatt Russell), a flame-haired dim wit who dumped her by text with the words “good luck in your future endeavours,” is the best man and she still hate-loves him.
She arrives to find herself seated at Table 19, a collection of misfits she says, “should have known to send regrets but not before sending an expensive gift.” There’s Jo Flanagan (June Squibb), a pot smoker who was once the bride’s nanny, the Kepps (Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow), distant friends of the family of the groom, ex-con Walter Thimple (Stephen Merchant) and Rezno Eckberg (“Grand Budapest Hotel’s” Tony Revolori), a young man who introduces himself with, “I have achieved puberty and I’m in the band.”
Because they are the outcasts, invited out of politeness and seated far from the action, they spend the day together. Secrets are revealed and the complex nature of relationships is explored. Will Eloise be able to speak to Teddy? Will the Kepps’ marriage survive the weekend? Will Renzo ever get a date? What will become of Jo and Walter?
“Table 19” is a rom com, but not a traditional one. It’s a super-reverso-rom-com that begins after the couple already has a history and broken up. It’s no secret that the heart of the movie will be their relationship so your enjoyment of the movie will be related to how much you care about this quirky collection of folks.
Kendrick is an agreeable presence, bringing equal parts edge and vulnerability to Eloise. Robinson and Kudrow banter like an old married couple and Squibb radiates warmth while Revolori and Merchant dial up their eccentricities. It’s an interesting group who by times are quite funny but most often feels like a collection of characters rather than real people. They shuffle from one set-up to another—Whoops! They knocked over the wedding cake!—lurching through the wedding on the way to the end credits and some sort of relationship resolution.
“Table 19” will raise a laugh or two or three, but the artificial nature of the situation isn’t weird enough to truly embrace the quirkiness of the characters or interesting enough to engage the audience.
When I mention to Blythe Danner there is Academy Award buzz around her work as Carol, a widow taking tentative steps into the world of dating in the new film I’ll See You in My Dreams she says, “That, I find idiotic.” Long pause. “But thank you.”
Danner made her film debut in 1972, two years after she won a Best Supporting Actress Tony Award for Butterflies Are Free on Broadway. Since then she has amassed over one hundred film and television credits, including all three Meet the Parents movies and Sylvia, where she played the mother of Sylvia Plath as portrayed by her real life daughter Gwyneth Paltrow.
Remarkably I’ll See You in My Dreams is her first lead role on the big screen. She plays Carol, a widowed woman whose carefully constructed world is rattled when she starts dating Bill (Sam Elliott).
“I think it is a very underplayed role,” she says. “Yes, she runs the gamut of emotions but there is nothing that is very extreme in my playing of this role. It is heartening that people are touched by the whole film and if they are by my performance that is very flattering but I don’t see it as an Oscar worthy performance. I just don’t see it. The possibility seems absurd to me.”
The veteran actress admits to feeling uncomfortable accepting praise
“I do think there is something wrong with me. I really do. I’m very perverse. It may be the fact that I went to Quaker schools growing up. I grew up in a household where we were always told not to get a big head about being received positively. It’s the work that is important. My favourite thing when I played Nina in The Seagull was her speech at the end when she says, ‘I know now that it is not the fame and the glory that is important, but how to endure.’”
Danner’s wonderfully rendered portrayal of Carol is being called “quietly touching” by the New York Times and “deeply felt” by Variety but she credits writer, director Brett Haley with writing a script that was, “clear and accessible and simple.”
“It was all on the page,” she says. “I felt so grateful. I found it effortless. I feel a little guilty about saying that because it should have been harder. From the beginning to the end it was a gift.”
Moviegoers of a certain age can sometimes feel beaten up during the summer months. From “Avengers: Age of Ultron” to “San Andreas” it’s a loud and proud season that can sometimes feel foreign to anyone who came of age before everyone tweeted their every thought in 140 characters.
Every now and again a movie cuts through the blockbuster noise, quietly making its way into the theatre. This summer “I’ll See You in My Dreams” is that movie.
Blythe Danner is Carol, a widow and retired teacher. Single since her husband died twenty years before, she decides, at the urging of her friends (Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place, and June Squibb), to try her hand at dating.
She finds company in the form of two men, pool cleaner Lloyd (Martin Starr) who awakens her youthful side and Bill (Sam Elliott) a handsome, straight-talking septuagenarian who wines and dines her. Her first spots her in the vitamin aisle of a drug store. “You don’t need all that,” he says. “You’re just right the way you are.”
The relationships shake Carol’s carefully constructed world—she sings karaoke, smokes dope and gets moony—which are the beats almost every one of these “finding love after 65” movies have, except those other movies don’t have Danner and Elliott in the leads.
Too often relegated to supporting parts—unbelievably this is Danner’s first big screen leading role—these two are the beating heart of the story and could get by on charisma alone, but writer-director Brett Haley doesn’t simply rely on his stars to carry the day. He has supplied them with a story that could easily have fallen into hackneyed silver fox clichés but avoids them by not shying away from real talk about aging and romance.
For older audiences “I’ll See You in My Dreams” is just what the doctor ordered, an antidote to “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”