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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 Eugene Novikov

"She coulda been somebody..."
4 stars

The title character in Adrienne Shelly’s WAITRESS is a marvel. Kind, talented, and cute as a button, Jenna (Keri Russell) is such a catch that her profoundly unhappy existence is difficult to believe. Surely, we think, someone like her need not slave away in a dead-end job and bide her time in a miserable marriage -- and that is precisely the point of this gentle, lovely film. A peripheral character gives our protagonist the simplest advice in the world, and the only advice she will ever need: “Make the right choices. Start fresh. It’s never too late.”

Waitress is filled with the sorts of quirks and gimmicks that seem insufferably precious on paper, but that work precisely because the film returns time and again to this small but vital kernel of truth. We look at Jenna, her awful, self-absorbed, abusive husband (Jeremy Sisto), her endless daydreams (she lives vicariously through her elaborate, “Biblically good” pie concoctions, which bear such names as “Bad Baby Pie” and “I Hate My Husband Pie”), and her desperate affair with her hunky new gynecologist (Nathan Fillion), and see the result of a string of tragic, unnecessary choices, which makes her abiding patience all the more frustrating – I wanted to shout at the screen, tell her to stand up for herself, kick her husband in the balls, and move on. The minor genius of the film is in the way it evokes this sort of frustration alongside a sympathetic understanding of the obstacles and insecurities that have trapped Jenna here for so long.

Shelly, who wrote, directed, and appears as one of Jenna’s put-upon co-workers, maintains a wry, modest tone that belies some of her self-consciously “indie” conceits. She doesn’t try to get by on mere cleverness, as some of her contemporaries have done; to the extent there are gimmicks, they resonate against the characters. It’s easy to roll your eyes at Shelly’s pie-as-a-metaphor-for-life device in the abstract, but much harder when it’s brought to life with Russell’s melancholy delivery and Jenna’s heartbreaking earnestness. Even when characters act in ways that are at best implausible and at worst insane, Shelly somehow manages to make it sweet, or funny, or improbably moving. Damned if I didn’t well up every time Jenna leaped on Fillion’s poor Dr. Pomatter in an outpouring of passion that’s been festering inside of her for God knows how long.

Keri Russell is a revelation. The role will be compared to Jennifer Aniston’s in Miguel Arteta’s vaguely similar The Good Girl, but while I never quite bought Aniston as a depressed, desperate maid – she is too beautiful and iconic a figure, and her performance never overcame that – the similarly radiant Russell had me from the first frame. I would give her an Oscar just for the way she blurts out “un-thank you” after insisting that she didn’t want to be congratulated on her pregnancy and receiving a dutiful “un-congratulations” from Pomatter. She didn’t just make me like Jenna, or pity her; I was her friend and ally, ready to defend her from the world. Maybe part of the reason I liked some of Shelly’s sillier screenwriting flourishes is that Russell manages to cut through them so effortlessly. It’s easier to be clever when you can hang everything on a performance this profound and true.

Shelly tests our patience -- Jenna takes so much abuse without a peep that I started flashing back to The Passion of the Christ – but ultimately rewards it with a resolution that’s about as satisfying as we could have hoped. (The turning point, which I won’t describe here, is just perfect.) Andy Griffith, charming in his first prominent appearance since the cancellation of Matlock, even gets to play a big role in the way things turn out. Waitress dispenses the requisite comeuppances and ends on a nice grace note, upbeat and sweet without being too treacly. This is the kind of movie that could build formidable word-of-mouth by sending people out of the theater on a high.

The film could have packed more a punch had Shelly (who died tragically last November) not stylized the plot quite as much as she did – I wound up wishing, for example, that the awful husband hadn’t been quite so cartoonishly awful, though I liked Jeremy Sisto’s slimy, uncompromising performance; Eddie Jemison’s ridiculous poetry-quoting suitor is also a little much, even if references to him as a “Mad Stalking Elf” never got old. But the movie finds a real hook in Jenna, and a real elegance in its simple, direct message: take look at the choices you’ve made, and start making the right ones. Start fresh. It’s never too late.

Reprinted from

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originally posted: 05/02/07 12:36:23
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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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