November 29, 2007

DVD Review: Waitress

This is a movie that is sure to put a smile on your face and a grumble in your tummy. Waitress is a sweet film that moves at a poetic pace through a dramatic comedy landscape. It successfully delivers a lead character to empathize with. It is nearly impossible not to enjoy this film; it has such a sweet heart, both literally and figuratively, that it is easy to forgive the areas that may be lacking. If you are looking for a movie that is upbeat and positive and bright without the cynicism that can creep into modern comedy, not to mention steering away from the popular improvised goofy slapstick comedy that can have a meaner edge, this is the movie for you.

Keri Russell stars as Jenna, a waitress and master pie maker who finds herself pregnant while trapped in a bad marriage. Trying to save up enough coin to leave her louse of a husband (Jeremy Sisto), she wants to enter a pie contest with a prize that will afford her the opportunity of leaving him for good. However, the unwanted and unexpected pregnancy has put a speed bump in her path to potential happiness. Then there is the matter of the new doctor who has taken a shine to her and her to him. This could be her last chance to be happy.

Waitress exists in a world that is not quite our own, but not so far removed as to not be recognizable. It is a fairy tale world where you know that things will work out in the end, you know that the heroine will make the right choices to be able to start her life over. There are no real surprises, but it does play out in such a way that you become involved in the lives of those on screen, at least I did. I found myself caring about Jenna, her friends, and her doctor, while I came to quickly despise Jenna's husband, someone who shouldn't be allowed to have contact with any human being.

We watch Jenna stuck in her loveless marriage, which has sucked out any desire for romantic affection, working long hours, and enduring a pregnancy that is anything but wanted. Sounds like it would be a downer of a movie right? Wrong. The production design is brightly colored and the fictional town is populated, for the most part, with nice people who would be good to spend time with. She works with Becky (Cheryl Hines), who has a romantic entanglement that she is keeping secret, and Dawn, a girl with low self-esteem who has attracted the attentions of a weasly suitor (Eddie Jemison). The three have formed a support group for each other to get through the tough times.

Once she finds herself pregnant, the doctor visits commence. This brings Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion, with a character name formed from a fusion Jorge Posada, Don Mattingly, and Derek Jeter) into the story. He is a stuttering, slightly clumsy doctor who is new to town, and has a near immediate attraction to his new patient, and likewise. The relationship starts professionally, although you can tell there are sparks flying between the two, and before you know it, they are involved in an affair.

The movie is a light-hearted affair that deals with adultery, unhappiness, and pregnancy in its bright colored apron. All of the characters are great. Keri Russell brings an earthy sweetness to the role of Jenna. Nathan Fillion shows again just how good of an actor he is, stepping away from the smart alec captain of Serenity and into the awkward shoes of the new town doc. Andy Griffith has a supporting role as the owner of the pie shop where Jenna works; he appears as a surly old man, but Jenna knows better, that beneath the gruff exterior is a heart of gold.

What can I say? The movie was an absolute delight, and it didn't quite go the way I expected. While it was a definite crowd pleaser, it was far from your typical Hollywood-style pleaser. That isn't to say it was without its faults, it is just they were overshadowed by everything that was good. The biggest problem I had was the doctor's entering the affair. We do not get much of his background, his relationship with his wife, or his readiness to enter into an affair. But I guess that is a minor complaint, as the story was much more about and centered on Jenna.

Waitress was written and directed by Adrienne Shelley and is a confectionery treat; she brings a lot of life to the screen in what is one of the top feel good movies of the year. She also co-starred as the mousy Dawn. That also makes this a sad film to watch, as Shelley was murdered late last year. In November of 2006, Ms. Shelley was found murdered in her New York City apartment, days before she would receive the letter accepting the film at the Sundance Film Festival. I found that it cast a bit of a pall over what was otherwise a great experience at the movies.

Audio/Video. The copy I have is a burned pre-release copy. This being the case, I cannot speak to how well the technical quality of this disk compares to the production copy you will find on the shelves. It didn't look all that bad, but I do not wish to mislead.

  • Commentary. This track features producer Michael Roiff and actress Keri Russell. This is a good track as they comment directly on the on-screen action.
  • This is How We Made Waitress Pie. Interviews with all the primaries about the film and how much they enjoyed working on it and all the different pieces they brought. Includes interviews with Adrienne Shelly. (10 minutes)
  • Written and Directed by Adrienne Shelly: A Memorial. What happened was tragic. It was nice to see this tribute to Adrienne's likability and ability as a writer and director. (6.5 minutes)
  • Hi! I'm Keri. I'll Be Your Waitress. Interview with Keri Russell on her experience coming to this role and working on the set. (5.5 minutes)
  • The Pies Have It! This brief segment will be sure to make you just a tad bit hungry for some pie. (3 minutes)
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents In Character With: Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, Nathan Fillion. These are brief interview segments mixed with some clips from the film. They talk about how they relate to the characters and how they approached playing the roles. (11.5 minutes)
  • A Message from Keri Russell about the Adrienne Shelly Foundation. This is a brief message from Keri relaying the passion and energy that Adrienne had for filmmaking and how much of an inspiration she was. For more information visit:

Bottomline. This is a fantastic film; it has a nice poetic pace as it weaves its way through Jenna's life. The performances are first rate, and the script is a lot of fun. In short, it is the kind of movie that you can just have a truly nice time with. Is it plausible? The story is, but the way it plays out is more of a fairy tale than an excursion into reality.

Highly Recommended.


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