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Posts Tagged ‘Lisa Kudrow’

The outcasts of Table 19 The outcasts of Table 19 (left to right):

The outcasts of Table 19 (left to right): Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Stephen Merchant, Anna Kendrick, Tony Revolori

“TABLE 19”  My rating: B-

90 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

If you can get past a few improbabilities (not difficult, given the solid cast), “Table 19” offers a sneakily compelling blend of farce and realism.

The setup could have been pulled from almost any TV sitcom: Six individuals have been invited to a wedding but at the reception find themselves seated at the furthest table from the action. It’s pretty clear that they’ve been assigned to wedding Siberia.

Our protagonist is Eloise (Anna Kendrick, who has the knack of making a crying scene both touching and hilarious). Until  two months ago she was the designated maid of honor and the long-time squeeze of the bride’s brother, Teddy (Wyatt Russell).

But Teddy dumped her (via email, for crissakes) and now, after retreating into a funk, Eloise has shown up to claim her seat — at far-flung Table 19.

Her fellow exiles include a bickering couple (Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson) who are only there because of a distant business connection with the bride’s father; the bride’s former nanny (June Squibb); the groom’s socially inept cousin (Stephen Merchant), a former jailbird (for embezzlement) now living in a halfway house; and a teen dweeb (Tony Revolori…he was the bellboy in “Grand Budapest Hotel”) desperate to lose his virginity in what he has been told is the sexually-charged atmosphere of a wedding party.

“Table 19” works not only because of the deliciously droll performances, but because director Jeffrey Blintz (who hit the documentary sweet spot with 2002’s “Spellbound” before turning to TV’s “The Office”) and co-writers Jay and Mark Duplass (“The Puffy Chair,” “Baghead,” “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” HBO’s “Togetherness”) are so sneaky about giving us broadly comic characters and then methodically revealing the humans underneath.

The film sets us up to expect standard-issue plot developments, then yanks out the rug with unexpected twists and character issues.

Don’t want to build up “Table 19” too much…its pleasures are modest ones. Yet  the ability to leave audiences hovering somewhere between a snort and a sob should not be dismissed.

Especially in the armpit months of the film release calendar.

| Robert W. Butler

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Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt

“THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN”  My rating: C 

112 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“The Girl on the Train” is something of an anomaly — an otherwise mediocre film containing an Oscar-caliber performance.

That the award-worthy performance comes from Emily Blunt should surprise no one. This English actress has an uncanny ability to meld with diverse screen incarnations (she’s played Queen Victoria, a modern dancer, a futuristic kidkass Marine, an ethically compromised FBI agent). As Rachel — the alcoholic, anguished, out-of-control heroine of Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel — Blunt is by turns painfully compelling and utterly alienating.

Too bad that the rest of Tate Taylor’s film is indifferent.

One could argue with some of the Hollywoodization at work here . The novel is set in Great Britain and its heroine is a slightly zaftig  sad sack who comes off like a tormented Bridget Jones. The film, on the other hand,  takes place in a bucolic suburb of New York City and Blunt can hardly be called overweight.

But that’s not the real problem. No, the film’s downfall is the screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson, a hodgepodge of narrative feints that makes it almost impossible to relate to any of the characters and which leaves the cast members to emote to no good end while director Taylor (who had a vastly better film with “The Help”) must try to pave over the narrative hiccups and improbabilities with a slick visual style.

You can almost feel the desperation.

We first encounter Blunt’s Rachel on the commuter train that takes her to the city every day.  As the train passes the neighborhood where she used to live with her now-ex husband, Rachel is always on the lookout for the beautiful  young blonde woman who lives just a few doors down from her old home.

That would be Megan (Haley Bennett), who likes to lounge on her balcony (facing the train tracks) in her skimpy undies. Megan has a husband, Scott (Luke Evans, late of the “Hobbit” franchise), and frequently Rachel can see the couple passionately spooning through the windows or around a fire pit in the back yard.

In voiceover narration Rachel tells us that she has built a huge romantic fantasy around the couple. She doesn’t know them, but between slugs of vodka (she keeps the booze in one of those plastic sports-drink bottles), Rachel imagines herself part of their loving scenario.

Uh, have I mentioned that since her divorce Rachel has become a pathetic basket case?

Turns out that Megan is currently the nanny for Rachel’s ex, Tom (Justin Theroux), and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson).  Poor needy Rachel is making life impossible for the couple, phoning at all hours of the day and night, and on one occasion sneaking into the house and walking out into the yard with their new baby. (Rachel and Tom couldn’t conceive, and this failure haunts her.)

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