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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 23.19%
Average: 4.35%
Pretty Bad: 2.9%
Total Crap: 5.8%

6 reviews, 33 user ratings

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Waitress (2007)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Erik Childress

"Keri Russell & Nathan Fillion Do Honor To Adrienne Shelly"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Just about any review of Waitress is going to touch upon the horrifically sad story of actress/director Adrienne Shelly’s murder before the Sundance film festival could welcome her back with her latest directorial effort. But if there’s one thing clear about Waitress it’s that the last thing Miss Shelly would want us talking about are the negatives. The film is a celebration of the search for happiness (with the correct spelling) within the warm confines of a traditional romantic comedy. Only viewed through the eyes of someone who has made her living on the independent scene, its characters are rich and personable, flawed and full of legitimate doubt and full of enough life to keep you smiling from front to crowd-pleasing back.

When you walk into a small-town diner and your stomach wants to expand to abosrb every individual taste conceivable in the lineup of pies on display, chances are they were made by someone like Jenna (Keri Russell). Pies are her speciality, passed down from her mother, and she’s got a name for each one of her creations which start with her mood and work their way into ingredients. Her co-workers are from the “Alice” school of spunky and squeaky, but without Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (Adrienne Shelly) there wouldn’t be anyone to treat her like a person. Jenna’s loneliness is personified in the rotten marriage to Earl (Jeremy Sisto), the kind of lout who pledges love for his wife as long as she views him as the only person in her world. The bastard won’t even give her money to enter a big pie contest; demanding her tips at the end of the day like a pimp.

But it gets worse. Jenna discovers that Earl’s baby is now growing inside her; the consequence of drunken amour which she immediately regretted. She has no intention but to have this child but is looking for any excuse to ditch Earl once and for all. The welcoming of new town physician, Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion), proves to be more than just a distraction. He is enamored with her small town hospitality, bringing him sweets that he purports to be “biblically good.” She is unsure how to react to a man treating her with such decency and kindness. They are both married, but like them we can’t help but put the baggage aside for the time being and enjoy their company even if its leading to morally and professionally questionable entanglements.

This isn’t about to dissolve into scandal or whisper campaigns from snooty gossips though. All you need to see is the smile montage in the middle which transforms both Jenna and Keri Russell into an almost Stepford-like vision of personal bliss. Funny and liberating, Jenna’s transformation is the ray of sunshine every woman deserves to have and a tribute to how a single facial expression can engage an audience to the charms of an actor. After years on the Mickey Mouse Club, Russell made her mark for four years on the WB’s Felicity, but has been left stranded in the cinema in nothing supporting roles in films like We Were Soldiers, The Upside of Anger and Mission: Impossible III. Finally, someone took notice and provided her with a forum to work her magic on an audience who may have unfairly dismissed her TV show as another teen trap on a network geared towards a single demographic. If there’s an adjective for “glow” that we haven’t come upon yet, Shelly helped Russell discover it with this role.

The feminist overtones of the screenplay may not embrace the variation on the old saying that behind every good man is a woman, but Russell is given ample support from the great Nathan Fillion. I say great not just as another admirer of his work on the short-lived Firefly and underappreciated big screen follow-up, Serenity, but as the kind of praise that doesn’t exist as mere compliment. The first time I became aware of him in a major role (he was also the first Private Ryan found in that “Saving” movie) was in the still unreleased Outing Riley (the second film from Project Greenlight’s Pete Jones) where I wrote that “he had a bright future in the business.” His work with Joss Whedon and in Slither put him on the path to be the heir to Kurt Russell, but Adrienne Shelly wrote him a role that gives him a chance to succeed in the kind of parts failed by the likes of Mark Ruffalo and Josh Lucas in far lesser films with far less charisma and self-effacing humor. Casting directors who see Waitress and don’t move Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion far up on their lists should be committed to a lifetime of finding game show contestants.

Waitress, no doubt, walks along a path populated by years of sitcoms and cutesy romantic concoctions, but there’s a genuineness that sets apart the sassy friends, wise old codgers and the men-are-dogs-until-the-right-one-comes-along mentality. Shelly doesn’t shy away from the threat of violence which lurks around Earl’s every scene, but also doesn’t turn it into a nasty cautionary tale either. Waitress is more optimistic and gives us characters like Eddie Jemison’s nerdy, impromptu poet and Andy Griffith (yes, Mayberry’s own) as the cantankerous diner owner with a heart to assure us that hope comes in all forms and usually not on the surface. My glass is half-full in thinking that fans of Shelly she acquired through the works of Hal Hartley and other independent cinema wouldn’t be quick with labeling Waitress as a reach for the vox populi. It’s even fuller having seen Waitress so I can honor it with a proper toast for the cast and the filmmaker who made it all possible.

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originally posted: 01/30/07 04:33:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Deep Focus Film Festival For more in the 2007 Deep Focus Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/05/13 David Hollingsworth Sweet, homemade, funny, and a naturally good tribute to Ms. Shelly. 5 stars
6/09/10 Serge very sweet movie, a little hyped for what it is but we had fun! 4 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. a sweet comedy with a good story! yay! :] 4 stars
1/06/09 Luisa Heartwarming, funny, loved it!! 4 stars
9/21/08 Annie G Without any lame bakery metaphors, I loved this film in spite of its minor flaws. 5 stars
7/04/08 Payne by name Demeaning to women that you are only empowered by having a baby 1 stars
5/12/08 Carole One of worst films I've ever seen. Stupid, unfunny, dfialogue terrible 1 stars
4/15/08 Derek k Fantastic. I hate Romantic Comedies, but this is just uncliched, unpredictable brilliance. 5 stars
1/14/08 David Pollastrini Keri Russel is hot in this! 3 stars
1/05/08 Ellen A sincere and honest film that throws in an extra pinch of humor for good measure. 4 stars
1/03/08 Julie Sage Good acting & clever pies can't save unoriginal, predictable waste of time. 2 stars
1/01/08 Susan I absolutely loves this movie (meaningful, heartwarming, great acting). 5 stars
12/30/07 dan Feminist screed. Every man is despicable. Every woman exploited. Yuck! 1 stars
11/09/07 Naghma Overall, a very good movie, if a little predictable. 4 stars
10/24/07 William Goss Southern small-town 'fable' feels forced, is just too tonally tart to win one over whole. 3 stars
6/15/07 The Talking Elbow I'm so happy I watched this movie 5 stars
6/07/07 Wendy Loved how every character was not quite what they seemed. XLnt acting, great movie. R.I.P. 4 stars
6/04/07 matthew edward this film is the best chick flick i have ever seen 4 stars
6/02/07 Mungo Sarnoff Smothering fluff. even my wife hated it.And that treackly song! 2 stars
5/29/07 Jeff Anderson A wonderful, sweet & beautiful film with a gr8 Russell performance. R.I.P. Adrienne Shelly. 5 stars
5/27/07 Merle Great acting. Great story. A must see! 5 stars
5/27/07 fools♫gold The most underrated film ever, even if everyone gives it a perfect score. 5 stars
5/27/07 WalkingDisaster What a lovely performance from Keri Russell! 4 stars
5/26/07 Heather Bittersweet confection of a movie, with a blob of sweet cream at the end 5 stars
5/23/07 Brian Mckay Cute and clever, but wraps everything up too neatly and easily 4 stars
5/21/07 michael renzullo deeply touched by this film...keri russell amazed me 5 stars
5/14/07 Raymond Brown Sweet winsome movie, mis Adrienne 5 stars
5/14/07 Marilyn Excellent film-great acting 5 stars
5/14/07 Hallie Very sweet and sincere. 4 stars
5/09/07 David Pollastrini Russell looks hot in this! 3 stars
5/05/07 Brian Michaels Anyone that's had a child or a relationship - man or woman - will love this movie! 5 stars
5/02/07 Cindy Loved it!! 5 stars
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  02-May-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Nov-2007



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