The number of stepfamilies in America is increasing each year. There are more than 30 million adults in such arrangements, usually because of divorce. One in five children live in a stepfamily, often having to cope with loyalty conflicts, confusions about how to relate to a biological parent living outside the home, and deep-seated insecurities. Table for Five is an engaging film that examines a wide range of issues surrounding stepfamilies.
J.P. Tannen (Jon Voight) is a former golf pro who has drifted into the real estate business in California. He is divorced from Kathleen (Millie Perkins) who has since remarried. J.P. wants to re-establish contact with his three children by taking them on a summer vacation. Kathleen and her husband Mitchell (Richard Crenna) grant permission but are surprised to learn that the trip is a Mediterranean cruise with stops in Genoa, Rome, Athens, Haifa, Alexandria, Cairo and Tunis.
J.P.'s extravagant attempt to get to know Truman-Paul (Robby Kiger), Tilde (Roxana Zal) and Trung (Son Hoang Bui) turns out to be more difficult than he anticipated. The youngest boy has a learning disability and is troubled by nightmares. The daughter is angered by her father's interest in women. The adopted Vietnamese teenager is going through a rebellious phase. J.P. is unable to cope with their moods and restlessness. He runs out of patience and becomes convinced that he will never be more to than a friendly "uncle."
Marie (Marie Christine Barrault), a single parent he meets aboard the ship, offers moral support when J.P. is just about at the end of his rope. Then tragedy strikes. He receives a call from Mitchell with the news that Kathleen has been killed in an automobile accident. The children's loving stepfather wants to break the news to them in Athens and take them home.
Table for Five was written by David Seltzer who has dealt with family matters in films as diverse as The Other Side of the Mountain, the television movie "Green Eyes" and the recent Six Weeks. In his feature film debut as director, Robert Lieberman puts the accent on the personal side of the drama, even though the physical settings are spectacular.
J.P. asks Mitchell for more time with the children and, after thrashing around with his personal grief, takes responsibility for telling them about their mother's death. Jon Voight makes the most of this scene set near the Sphinx in Egypt. Afterwards, J.P. reaches out to Truman-Paul, Tilde and Trung, learning in the process the depth of his father feeling for them. They, too, see a new side of him and in the end must decide whether they will live with him or Mitchell. Given their step-father's genuine love and concern for them, the choice is a difficult one.