Friday, November 30, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Waitress (2007)

Tonight we watched WAITRESS, which was just released on DVD.

I thoroughly enjoyed this character study of Jenna (Keri Russell), a waitress who bakes extraordinary pies at a Southern diner. Jenna is trapped in a marriage with an abusive husband (Jeremy Sisto), and her life is further complicated when she learns she's expecting a baby. Jenna dreams of saving enough money to leave her husband...and she also dreams of pies...amazing pies.

The film is a wonderfully drawn slice of life -- no pie puns intended -- depicting Jenna and her coworkers at the diner: waitresses Becky and Dawn (Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly), manager Cal (Lew Temple), and owner Joe (Andy Griffith). The characters are distinctive and feel very true-to-life. Despite the thread of melancholy running through the film as Jenna's life becomes ever more complicated, it's a funny, touching movie which ultimately affirms both life and making the right choices. The humor, the brightly colored pie-making sequences, and Jenna's supportive relationships with her friends at the diner leaven -- there go the baking puns again -- what could otherwise be a somber film.

A couple years ago I very much enjoyed Keri Russell in Hallmark's THE MAGIC OF ORDINARY DAYS, and in WAITRESS she's also superb in the film's title role. The two films are somewhat similar insofar as they are about women dealing with the consequences of unexpected pregnancy who choose to keep their babies and ultimately build a happy existence, appreciating family, friends, and the "small" things in life. The great unanswered question in WAITRESS is how someone with Jenna's talent and beauty ended up married to such a mean, controlling loser. Russell movingly depicts Jenna's gradual evolution from her initially miserable existence.

Andy Griffith steals every scene he's in as the quirky Joe, who is crochety, perhaps the slightest bit senile, yet all-knowing and wise. I wouldn't be surprised if Griffith is recognized with an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

The cast also includes Nathan Fillion and Eddie Jemison. The late Adrienne Shelly, who plays Dawn, also wrote and directed the film. It's very sad Shelly did not have the opportunity to create more films, as she was a triple-threat talent. She was murdered in New York City before the film's release.

Parental advisory: The film is rated PG-13 and is definitely not for the younger set due to its adult themes.

WAITRESS runs 108 minutes. The trailer is here. DVD extras include a commentary track and featurettes.

I'd looked forward to seeing WAITRESS for several months and found it worth the wait. A very enjoyable evening.


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