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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Waitress

MOVIE REVIEWS

WAITRESS (2007)

Starring Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly, Eddie Jemison, Lew Temple, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith, Darby Stanchfield, Heidi Sulzman, Lauri Johnson, Sarah Hunley, Cindy Drummond, Nathan Dean and Caroline Fogarty.

Screenplay by Adrienne Shelly.

Directed by Adrienne Shelly.

Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.  104 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

Waitress

It is hard to take Waitress on its own values because even the lightest moments of this beautifully whimsical tale carries with it some horrific baggage.  The tragic murder last November of writer/director/co-star Adrienne Shelly by a construction worker in her New York apartment/office casts a bittersweet shadow on the film.  This was the third opportunity as a director for Shelly who had been a cult-favorite actress from movies like Hal Hartley's Trust and The Unbelievable Truth and it was her best shot to break into the mainstream.  In fact, the film was already accepted to be in the Sundance Festival when the murder happened.

The cruelty of fate is made even more baffling by the bright, generally optimistic point of view of the script and film which Shelly had fashioned.  Many of the characters in Waitress are unhappy and yet they hold out the hope and expectation of life getting better.  In an indie movie world which generally embraces stories about squandered opportunities, Waitress is a movie which celebrates people who stumble often before finally getting it right.

These epiphanies are not necessarily realistic, but it is just this lack of hard-core realism, this whimsical quality, which makes Waitress such an endearing tale.  Waitress is unabashedly romantic (about life as well as love), delivering most of its characters from lives of quiet desperation into new places where they are more sure of their purposes.  Some find it in love.  Some find it in parenthood.  Some find it in work.  Some find it in the creation of pastry.  One character even finds it in one last magnanimous gesture before death.

Keri Russell who hasn't worked nearly enough since her days in the acclaimed TV series Felicity supplies the face and heart of the story.  Russell is Jenna, a chipper-but-terminally depressed waitress and cook at a pie shop in a small town.  She hates her clingy, jealous, violent husband (Jeremy Sisto of Six Feet Under) and is saving money to escape from him.  She doesn't particularly like her job except that she loves creating pies for the restaurant.  She makes special pies which she literally uses to try to exorcise her sorrows. 

When a drunken night with the husband leaves Jenna pregnant she is not happy so much as resentful of the baby coming along to give her another obstacle towards leaving.  She enters into a halting relationship with her new doctor (Nathan Fillion of Firefly and Drive) which opens her eyes not only to the possibility of true love but also her own potential.

Many of the best scenes revolve around Jenna's work, where she is best friends with the two other waitresses (Shelly and Cheryl Hines of Curb Your Enthusiasm).  Both are also searching for love (or at least attention) and find their own types of happiness.  Also at the diner are the angry-but-surprisingly-insightful cook (Lew Temple) and the crotchety owner (Andy Griffith) who will only let down his guard around Jenna.

All of these characters have their little quirks and foibles, but in the long run all of them are looking for is a little happiness.  The sweet, comic, smart and consistently surprising script (one character's response to the idea of pregnant women drinking coffee is one of the best punchlines I've seen in a movie this year) makes even the most poignant and sad moments here strangely uplifting.  You get the feeling that Shelly was a truly optimistic person who believed in happy endings which makes her own ending all the more heartbreaking.

Waitress is not a perfect movie, but it is one that is easy to love.  It is a sweet fable with heart, beauty and laughter.  Shelly did a terrific job both as a screenwriter and a director and would have undoubtedly grown and deepened even more as a filmmaker.  You really have to grieve for all of the squandered potential and life force which was lost because of a single, senseless, violent act.  (5/07)

Ken Sharp

Copyright 2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 27, 2007.

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Copyright 2007   popentertainment.comAll rights reserved.  Posted: May 27, 2007.

 

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