Adrienne Shelly’s ‘Waitress’ (2007)

11Aug07

Waitress - Keri Russell, Adrienne Shelly, Cheryl Hines
Reading a description of the plot of Waitress won’t fully prepare you for seeing the film. Adrienne Shelly’s posthumously released final project is a dark, risky film with a warm, inviting color palette and a happy ending. Knowing that Shelly started her career in Hal Hartley films (and having seen a Hartley film) gives you an idea of the tone and style — everything seems just a little off and slightly heightened. Complementing the dialogue and acting style, Shelly blows out the color a bit, making everything seem a little too warm and golden.

Keri Russell disappeared for a while after Felicity ended, but she has come back strong with some nice performances in The Upside of Anger and now this film. She has able assistance from the supporting cast, most notably Cheryl Hines as her feisty coworker and Andy Griffith as the curmudgeonly owner of the pie shop where she works. Nathan Fillion is charming as the bumbling new OB/GYN, and he and Russell make a cute couple. However, I was distracted throughout the film by Fillion’s eye color. I don’t remember his eyes being that blue on Firefly or in Serenity. Perhaps he was wearing contacts or the color correction on the film altered his eye color.

Waitress - Keri Russell, Lew Temple, Cheryl Hines
Scenes with Jeremy Sisto made me downright uncomfortable, which speaks well of his performance. The abuse that Earl inflicts on Jenna is more emotional than physical, and from his first appearance in the film he sucks the air out of the room. I could have done without the scene in which Earl practically rapes his wife. His character is not drawn very three-dimensionally, but I can see why Shelly might have made that choice. This film is more likely to attract a female audience. To make some women sympathetic to Jenna, who is vocal about her displeasure about her pregnancy and who, in fact, writes hate letters to her unborn child, Jenna’s situation needs to be pretty terrible.

Waitress is very much about discovering possibility. At the beginning of the movie, Jenna can only see possibility in the pies that she makes because of her suffocating home life. Her affair with Dr. Pomatter causes her to see more possibilities for herself, and the birth of her child allows her to see so much possibility that she finds the strength to leave Earl and start her own life.

Yes, I just gave away the ending, but Waitress isn’t exactly breaking the mold where plot is concerned. Despite that fact, Adrienne Shelly’s final film is appealing, offering likable characters and several laugh-out-loud moments.

Waitress - Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion

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