Bad Reviews Good Heart: Table 19

Last weekend, I had the brilliant idea for our family to pile into the car and head to the movies in Hollywood. An idea that carried the potential for lifting me to mom-of-the-year status or the opposite. Not that I’m into titles or anything.

We live a little over an hour south of LA in Orange County, so some might think we’re nuts for braving the 405 and four more freeways just to see a movie. Why not save the environment and go local? Well, as suburban transplants with urban hearts we need the occasional dose of culture and diversity that the “city life” has to offer. It gives us perspective, reminding us that life isn’t perfectly planned all the time, which leads me back to the movie, Table 19.

We got to the theater thirty minutes before the show started at the ArcLight. This gap in activity can sometimes make for pretty dicey tension between three teenage sisters, however a quick visit next door to Amoeba Music, complete with sightings of Alice Cooper and Tyler Oakley, filled their Snapchat streams with the coolness of being in LA. I was still standing a little taller in my mom-of-the-year stature.

Insert flowing Super Mom cape, hands on hips and hair blowing in the wind visual here. But, don’t get too cozy with it.

As soon as we got to our seats, the girls whipped out their phones and pulled up Rotten Tomatoes to read the reviews of Table 19. It was the epitome of a record scratch moment. The cape was ripped from the back of my Super Mom morale and I melted into the stinky popcorn crusted movie theater seat to shield myself from rolling eyeballs and derisive heckling. My husband asked if a beer was in order. I declined. The movie hadn’t even started and I was dreading the long drive home.

The host welcomed us to the theater and gave us her spiel about turning phones off and talking quietly, which naturally reminded me that I had something to say. I leaned over and blurted, “Guys, we drove all the way up here to get our city time in, so can you just make the best of it? Please. Sometimes good movies get bad reviews.” This was my way of saying I didn’t want to spend the next hour and a half listening to their complaints instead of the movie we had just paid to see.

The lights dropped and I raised my hands to the movie gods. Please let this be a decent movie.

As soon as Anna Kendrick’s name appeared on the screen, I saw my girls’ eyes brightened up. Moments later, they were laughing, amused by the awkward tension between Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson and the inappropriate advances made by Tony Revolori’s character, Rezno. Phew! My husband smiled through the flickering darkness, acknowledging my motherly wisdom.

Everything was going great, until the unexpected pregnancy, cancer and marital infidelity arrived on screen. I quickly grew convinced I would never hear the end of how I wasted my family’s entire day for this weird movie when we could have gone to LACMA or Melrose. The funny thing was that I found myself genuinely enjoying the story, the characters, the uncomfortable and sometimes heavy subject matter of Table 19. A lot. In fact, I felt the experience we were having with the subject matter in the movie ironically reflected the grit we sought for our momentary escape from the suburbs. Mission accomplished?

When the lights came on, our oldest daughter piped up, “It wasn’t as terrible as I thought it’d be.” Our youngest daughter overlapped with, “I liked it!” And true to form, our middle daughter (who is going through a bit of a negative phase) rolled her eyes. My husband thought it would be a great Netflix movie and I agreed. In the end, those zero out of five star reviews our girls waved in front of my nose didn’t seem to fit our experience of Table 19. Most of us enjoyed it and the rest of the audience in the theater seemed to as well.

Table 19 is not a perfectly plotted masterpiece of a script. It isn’t light and fluffy wedding bell giddiness, but rather a charmingly awkward, raw and amusing glimpse at the many challenges that life brings. Most importantly, the story is a reminder that we all benefit from supporting one another through the messiness of life: a pretty powerful message for a Saturday afternoon with the family.

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