Waitress (2007) Review

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!

Waitress (2007)

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.

My Opinion:

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.

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Chalet Girl, Austenland & Endless Love Movie Reviews (A Chick Flick Special)

Look at me, watching chick flicks! WHAT?! Well, it happens occasionally – I am a girl, after all. 😉 I just watched Chalet Girl a week ago but the other two were at least a year ago & I never got around to reviewing them so it made sense to do three “chick flick quickies” together. Chicky Flicky Quicky??

Anyway, regulars here will know that I’m not really a chick flick type of girl. My type of chick flick usually involves women kicking ass. Give me Ellen Ripley & Furiosa over romantic bullshit! (Okay, or Drew Barrymore – I watch all of her stuff). So what did I think of these three girly movies? Let’s see!

Chalet Girl (2011)

Directed by Phil Traill

Starring: Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick, Tamsin Egerton, Ken Duken, Sophia Bush, Bill Bailey, Brooke Shields, Bill Nighy

My Opinion:

I LIKED THIS! There. I said it. Is it good? No. Is it cheesy & predictable? Oh god yes! I don’t care. Screw it. Sometimes it’s nice to just have fun with a movie and not be all judgmental & snobby. I enjoyed this one quite a bit for something that’s not normally very “me”.

I might as well start right away with saying that adorable Felicity Jones is 100% to thank for this movie working & being at all watchable. With another actress, it could have been a disaster. I know she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for The Theory Of Everything (which I have yet to see) and that she has a lead role in the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (a Star Wars role! Lucky girl!) but this is the only film I’ve seen her in. It was a bit weird watching this knowing that she’s gone on to much bigger & better things but it’s easy to see why as she’s so damn likeable in this & has that special “thing” that only a handful of actors have (I’m so crap with words. The only other way I can think of to describe that “thing” is “the X Factor” but that makes me think of those stupid singing competitions with Simon Cowell. Puke!). Anyway, she definitely has that here and if I hadn’t liked her, I would have been bored with this movie.

As for this movie, I don’t know how to talk about it without making it sound bad. I mean, it’s not a good movie but I really liked it so don’t want to trash it. It’s very odd in that it’s a British film that couldn’t be more “American”. I moaned the other day in my review of A Long Way Down that too many British movies are bland dramedies so now I’ll be praising a British film that doesn’t feel at all British. I feel bad about that! I have to say, though, if it had actually been American, they’d probably have cast some horrible actress in the lead role so it wouldn’t have worked. So…. Um, hooray for British people! 😉

I think what worked for me, being a girl who likes strong female movie characters, was the fact that Felicity Jones’ Kim fit the bill. She’s young & she’s a bit unsure of herself after the tragic death of her mother but she’s determined to help her father to pay the bills (which is why she takes a job as a chalet girl in the Alps) and, best of all, she’s a former skateboarding champion. That’s cool! (Not that you ever see her riding a skateboard…). But, inevitably, she takes up snowboarding while in the Alps and it turns out that she has a natural talent for it thanks to her skateboarding years. Shocker, huh?! Oh, and there’s of course a big snowboarding competition coming up with a big cash prize! HUH. What are the odds of that?!?!?! lol

Shit. I’m sounding snobby. Hey, what can I say? This movie is cliché every step of the way. We have the snobby, slutty chalet girl who is pissed off at having to work with “poor girl” Kim, we have the rich boy and a forbidden romance with “poor girl” Kim as well as that boy’s rich-bitch mother who doesn’t approve and, finally, we have the tragic past and a fear that must be overcome in order for Kim to get her life back on track. But, hell – it works. There are just enough laughs and annoyingly “feel good” moments that I found it very hard to not like this movie. I didn’t like the rich boyfriend (soooo not my type but I’m sure some girls will like him). However, some really likeable lesser characters, such as the guy who teaches Kim to snowboard as well as my favorite comedian, Bill Bailey, as her father make up for some of the movie’s mistakes (such as Brooke Shields as the disapproving mother of the rich boy – her character is so damn annoying). The movie has lots of fun moments but doesn’t ever get too silly (although these young kids do know how to party & enjoy a bit of naked hot tub fun…).

Most of all, though, Felicity Jones is just seriously loveable as Kim and you’ll want to see her succeed in every clichéd way possible. Unless you have no soul.

My Rating: 7/10

Would A Manly Man Like This?: Possibly. I think it’s definitely the one that men would find the most bearable of these three.

Austenland (2013)

Directed by Jerusha Hess

Based on Austenland by Shannon Hale

Starring: Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, James Callis, Jane Seymour, Georgia King

My Opinion:

This movie is weird & utterly ridiculous. Keri Russell plays a lonely American woman obsessed with Jane Austen novels. She saves up her money for “the trip of a lifetime” – a bizarre English retreat run by Jane Seymour where women dress up & partake in Jane Austen-y role play with attractive male actors. Seriously – this movie is bonkers. But, like Chalet Girl, I LIKED THIS ONE TOO!

This has to be the girliest girly movie I’ve watched in years. I should point out that I’ve never read a Jane Austen novel as they just don’t really appeal to me. So, this will have been missing that little extra element of enjoyment for me that I’m sure Austen lovers probably got out of it. I know enough, though, and have watched some period dramas (I actually love the movie Sense & Sensibility) so I was able to enjoy this just fine – I don’t think it’s totally necessary to be an Austen novel reader to like this.

I find Keri Russell to be a pretty likeable actress in what I’ve actually seen her in (she was in one of my absolute favorites of recent years, Waitress, which I plan to praise to high heaven when I do my planned Adrienne Shelly Week at some point). So, I have no complaints there. But, more importantly, my girl Jennifer Coolidge was in this! LOVE her. Yes, she’s once again playing a loveable idiot. Who cares?! It’s funny! I’ll happily watch her play that same idiotic character over & over again. In this, she plays one of the guests at the retreat and, unlike Russell, appears to not have read a Jane Austen novel in her life. She’s just horny & wants some sexy role play with the men. It’s hilarious to see her attempting an English accent and being treated to all the best things at the retreat as she’s paid for the full experience while Russell could only afford the most basic package. A lot of the laughs come from this as Jane Seymour is an evil bitch to poor girl Russell while Coolidge is completely oblivious but totally sweet in her idiocy.

There’s not a lot more that I can really say about this one. It’s the true definition of “chick flick”. I liked that it was quite quirky in its own way, though – the overall concept isn’t really one that we’ve seen in a romcom before. As for the romance, it’s of course there and it’s predictable yet not quite as predictable as some. The movie was a pleasant surprise in that it had more humor than I was expecting and an interesting setup that took some balls to make into a film as this story could have ended up a disaster onscreen (it’s apparently a book but I know nothing about the book). Yes, I said this chick flick has some balls to it! But people with balls would be unlikely to watch this one.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Would A Manly Man Like This?: Oh HELL no! lol. But it’s at least a lot more fun than an actual Jane Austen period drama.

Endless Love (2014)

Directed by Shana Feste

Based on Endless Love by Scott Spencer

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick

My Opinion:

I love how Chalet Girl is linked to my two other movies today. A girl in a small role in Chalet Girl was also in Austenland. And… Brooke Shields was in Chalet Girl as well as the superior 1981 adaptation of the Endless Love novel. Oh dear – I just said “superior adaptation” and everyone knows that the 1981 Endless Love is complete & utter shit! Well, so is the 2014 version. But I liked it! Just not an ALL CAPS “I LIKED IT” as with the other two movies I reviewed. Just a lowercase “i liked it” with no formatting.

The two lovers in this 2014 version are so very pretty. So pretty and BORING AS FUCK. Now, I’m of the age where I should love the original Endless Love. However, I was too young for it at first & then didn’t see it until I was well into my twenties so I don’t have the nostalgia thing going on for it. Goddamn it’s bad. It’s seriously shit. But I kind of liked it. I think it’s the law for a girl my age to like the 1981 film. What that film has, at the very least, is passion. The story is a bit pathetic and Shields & whoever the hell the guy was couldn’t act for shit plus the mother of Shields lovingly watches her daughter having sex with the guy (which was beyond weird & creepy) but at least the guy in 1981 had a believable, obsessive passion. The 2014 film has none of that. What’s the point? I don’t know the book so can only compare this to the 1981 film but that film was about an obsession. Alex Pettyfer’s poor boy loving rich girl Gabriella Wilde in 2014 is all well & good but we’ve seen that story a million times. Take out the dangerous obsession & you just end up with two really pretty people who probably have really pretty but really boring sex.

Alex Pettyfer’s poor “bad boy” isn’t a “bad boy” at all. In fact, he’s a sweetheart. He’s in love but not obsessed – he’s not going to go set things on fire or some crazy shit like that. And I praised Gabriella Wilde in that pointless remake of Carrie but, man oh man, her character in this is so DULL. Talk about zero personality! It’s not necessarily her fault – it’s more likely the script. They’re both so sweet & so cute together, though, which makes for a good enough love story. You can’t exactly hate them as they’re SO FUCKING NICE. Too nice. Just…. Ugh! I don’t know. It’s just pointless to call it Endless Love when it’s a completely different film from the other one (other than a tiny bit of tension from “girl’s dad not approving of boy who isn’t good enough for his daughter”). Give me the crazy 1981 obsession, please! Their acting was worse but at least you know they probably had much better sex!

But I still liked this 2014 film in its own right for some reason I seriously can’t explain. Maybe I just like watching really pretty but really dull people making out.

My Rating: 6/10

Would A Manly Man Like This?: Unlikely. But they may find Gabriella Wilde very pretty in a safe & boring kind of way.

Now here’s that sappy piece of shit Lionel Richie & Diana Ross song from the original movie. Complete with clips full of shitty acting from the original movie! God, I really do like that shitty movie…

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014) Review

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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

Directed by Matt Reeves

Starring:
Andy Serkis
Jason Clarke
Gary Oldman
Keri Russell
Toby Kebbell
Kodi Smit-McPhee

Running time: 131 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the wake of a disaster that changed the world, the growing and genetically evolving apes find themselves at a critical point with the human race.

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My Opinion:

I’m sure everyone has reviewed this by now so I’ll just say this: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is pretty damn spectacular. It isn’t perfect but any issues I have with it are pretty insignificant compared to the amazing special effects. WOW! Hey you WordPress whippersnappers – remember that I’m old. You’re all used to movies looking like this now & just expect it all the time. You’re spoiled!!! 😉 I mean, I’m actually still impressed by 1968’s Planet Of The Apes so, you know, maybe I’m more easy to please than some of you. But this film is REALLY freaking impressive.

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The apes!!! I’d happily watch a movie with just the apes & no human actors on screen. There was so much depth to their characters. The only downside is that they did such an excellent job with the look and the character development of the apes that the humans in the film really do pale by comparison. It was actually easier to feel for the apes and their struggle than it was for the humans and all that they’ve gone through. However, (and this is something I loved about this film), there’s no black & white “humans are evil and the apes are innocent” (or vice versa). We see both sides and I thought the story worked really well & that the way things progressed was very believable. I was completely immersed in this film and that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like considering how many movies I go to.

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Summary:

I don’t know what else to say that hasn’t been said by others. I thought Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was pretty great and I love that Dawn manages to improve on it. Also, I’ll fully admit that I love that this movie turns into a full-on blockbuster at the end. This movie is proof that you CAN have an exciting, heart-pounding blockbuster as well as an intelligent script and well developed characters that you actually care about. I do wish the human characters had had as much time spent on making us care about them as the apes had but it’s really a minor complaint. This movie is very very good.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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I STILL haven’t made my mind up on if Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is my 2nd or 3rd favorite movie of 2014. It’s between this & Her. See my full list HERE if you’re bothered. 🙂