Today I’m reviewing Adrienne Shelly’s fantastic film Waitress. This would’ve been Shelly’s 50th birthday so I’ve been reviewing some of her movies this week. I started by reviewing her Hal Hartley films The Unbelievable Truth & Trust (HERE) & yesterday reviewed the films Sleeping With Strangers & Factotum (HERE). I think Waitress is the best of her films that I’ve seen. She did an excellent job as writer, director & co-star and I think she’d have gone on to make many more great films if she’d had the chance. Let’s talk about Waitress!
Directed & Written by Adrienne Shelly
Starring: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith, Adrienne Shelly
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Jenna is a pregnant, unhappily married waitress in the deep south. She meets a newcomer to her town and falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness.
First of all, I’m not one of these girly girls who goes for a lot of “chick flicks”. I do like some movies that are aimed mainly at women but, for me to like these types of movies, they have to be good. I don’t like dumb comedy or sappy romance and would run screaming from the crap that people like Kate Hudson star in. Waitress isn’t one of those types of movies. I hesitated to even use the words “chick flicks” above due to the negative connotations but, yes, I’d say this movie is certainly aimed at females. However, I think plenty of men would be far happier to watch this with their wives/girlfriends than, say, Pretty Woman or something. So don’t write this one off as just some “chick flick” as it’s better than that term implies.
However, I fully admit that this film won’t work for everyone. I wasn’t really planning on ever even reviewing it until I decided that I’d check out more of director/writer/co-star Adrienne Shelly’s previous acting work after really liking what she did with Waitress.
I can’t explain it exactly but I wanted to keep this movie to myself. I think most of us movie bloggers have some movies that just “speak” to us for whatever reason and Waitress is one of those films for me. I just get it. It works perfectly for me. Not everyone will have the same reaction to it & I know it probably helped that, when I first saw it, I was also pregnant like Keri Russell’s character. Although I wasn’t in the same circumstances whatsoever (her pregnancy is very much unplanned and her husband is an abusive asshole), I liked that this movie wasn’t all “Yay! Being pregnant is the greatest and most beautiful thing in the world!” and that it didn’t rely on dumb pregnancy/baby humor like so many “chick flicks/romcoms” often do. Russell’s character isn’t mean about her pregnancy or anything like that – she’s just kind of numb & goes through the motions during her pregnancy as she knows she doesn’t really have any other option. Although I couldn’t relate to the exact same feelings, I loved the honesty and the fact that her character felt real. I read that Shelly wrote this film while pregnant with her daughter & scared of how motherhood might change her life & career. They say “write what you know”, right? I think Shelly did that & ended up writing a great & honest film because of it.
This is a smart comedy & I love the (bad) attitudes of every quirky character. As I’ve said, Keri Russell’s pregnant Jenna is very unhappily married to an abusive man (Jeremy Sisto) and certainly not at all happy to be carrying his child. She’s completely apathetic about everything in life other than baking pies, the one thing she loves. She creates her own pies & then gives them special names such as the “I Hate My Husband” pie, which was a fun little touch throughout the movie. Her best friends, fellow waitresses played by Cheryl Hines & Adrienne Shelly, are equally bitter yet so damn likeable.
Nathan Fillion plays Keri Russell’s doctor and the (potential?) knight in shining armor. I really like Fillion (who doesn’t?!) and am glad he was in this as I’m sure some people watched it just because of him. As with everyone else, he’s also far from perfect and comes across as quite awkward. One of the biggest surprises, though, was the grumpy old man played by Andy Griffith. Andy Griffith of all people! He’s great in this, though – a lonely & angry old man who clearly cares about Russell’s character even though it’s not immediately obvious from his gruff exterior.
I’m worried that I’m not making these characters sound very nice… Believe me, I can’t stand movies that have characters you hate! This movie isn’t like that. Hmm… I suppose the closest comparison I can make is to say that the characters reminded me a bit of those on Seinfeld. Every character is seriously flawed and I like that. No one is perfect in life! But they all work perfectly together in this film & create a great subtle humor. The movie stays on the right side of the line – it’s never too mean-spirited and also never becomes annoyingly soppy or saccharine. I personally have no complaints about this movie – I loved the story, the characters, the relationships, the humor, and the great ending (which is beautiful & bittersweet if you know Adrienne Shelly’s tragic story. FYI – if you watch this, the little girl in it is Shelly’s real-life daughter Sophie). Yes, I like Waitress a lot. I think Adrienne Shelly was a very talented writer & it’s a shame that we’ll never get to see anything else she would have created. This movie is an honest look at motherhood & ends up being a love letter of sorts to her daughter, so it’s a lovely film to end up as her legacy.
My Rating: 8.5/10
**I have to add that I had NO idea that Waitress had been made into a musical on Broadway until I started writing this review & saw that it was recently nominated for four Tony Awards. I’d love to see what they’ve done with it! I hope it still captures the spirit of the film.
Also, I wanted to mention that Shelly’s husband Andy Ostroy set up The Adrienne Shelly Foundation after her death, which supports female filmmakers. You can read more about Adrienne Shelly, the Waitress musical, and her Foundation in a recent People article HERE. There’s also a good article at thecelebrityauction.com HERE which has more of the interview with Shelly’s husband in which he talks about her feelings while making Waitress. There’s not a lot of other information online – she really was an “indie queen” in her acting career (which was obvious from the almost complete lack of comments on my reviews for the rather obscure Hal Hartley films on Wednesday). 😉 If you’re curious about her work, I obviously recommend Waitress but, after that, you may want to check out those Hal Hartley films as well.