Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Originally Written and Posted at on 12/10/07 w/ Additional Edits.

Written, directed, and co-starring Adrienne Shelly, Waitress tells the story of a young woman who works as a waitress in a small-town diner whose life isn’t going so well with a bad husband. Things get worse when she learns she is pregnant and she decides to make a change by entering a pie-making contest while falling for the town's new doctor. The film's mix of humor and drama along with Shelly's themes of female empowerment create a film that is sweet and entertaining. Starring Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Eddie Jemison, Lew Temple, Jeremy Sisto, and Andy Griffiths. Waitress is a charming, funny, sweet comedy from Adrienne Shelly and company.

Jenna (Keri Russell) is a waitress at a coffee & pie diner that is owned by quirky businessman named Joe (Andy Griffiths). Working under her grizzled boss Cal (Lew Temple), Jenna is known for making numerous pies that is a hit at the diner. Joined by Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (Adrienne Shelly), she works and often mulls her dour existence with her only hopes to escape her dreary life and her obnoxious, controlling husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto) is to win a pie-baking contest. Then one day, Jenna receives the worst news of her life as she learns she is pregnant with Earl's child and all of her dreams is now confronted by a new reality. Checking to see if she really is pregnant, she goes to the doctor's office where her regular doctor is taken a break and is temporarily replaced by Dr. Jim Pomatter (Nathan Fillion).

Dr. Pomatter brings a new sense of comfort to Jenna while trying to deal with her own dreary life while Dawn is being courted by a man named Ogie (Eddie Jemison) whom she met a blind date. While Becky is keeping a secret from her two waitresses, Jenna's desperation to leave Earl and her life, she makes an attempt while trying not to tell Earl that she’s pregnant. Another meeting with Dr. Pomatter brings an unexpected romance despite the fact that he's also married. The romance suddenly brings new things for Jenna despite the fact that Earl knows her pregnancy and is hoping that she will love him more than the baby. Writing a diary to the baby about her feelings, Jenna is still trying to find some hope as her affair with Dr. Pomatter is taking its toll. Turning to Joe for guidance about life, Jenna learns what she must do for her child and future.

While the film is set in the romantic-comedy genre, the film is also a feminist statement of sorts about a woman trying to find out her future without the support of a man. While the film at times does play to conventional plot structures, the development of Jenna as a character is strong as Adrienne Shelly makes the audience go along for her journey as she is treated awfully by her husband while her affair with Dr. Pomatter despite its sweet moments is mired in the fact that he's married. Shelly's script is filled with a lot of stylish yet witty dialogue about pies, love, women, and all of the things in life as it's done so well that it gives the film an energy and style that is engaging to watch.

Shelly's direction works to convey the moments of humor while adding bits of subplots for each supporting character to have their moments. Still, it's the story of Jenna and her question of morality as well as trying to figure out if she wants to be mother that remains the key story of the film. Shelly's direction shines throughout the entire film from the way she places the camera to capture the drama and humor while showing moments of pie-making which is an art in itself. Overall, Shelly's writing and direction is superb.

Cinematographer Matthew Irving does some great work with some of the film's lighting in the interiors which were dark and intimate, notably in the nighttime sequences that are very low-key while many of the exteriors on day time are wonderfully colorful. Editor Annette Davey does some excellent work with the film's pacing that is very leisurely while taking the energy of the film's development in one scene to convey Jenna's happiness. Production designer Ramsey Avery and art director Jason Baldwin do great work with look of the diner that is very intimate and colorful along with the messy look of Dr. Pomatter's office. Costume designer Ariyela Wald-Cohain does fantastic work with look of the waitress dresses, Earl's grungy look, and Joe's suit to give that small town feel. Sound editor Frederick Helm does some great work with the film's sound to convey the world of diners as well as Earl's car honks to know he's coming and such.

The film's music by Andrew Hollander is very dream-like to convey Jenna's dream-sequences of making pies that is very innocent while the soundtrack features some fine music from Mozart, Richard Wagner's Ride Of The Valkyries for a great sequence, a cover of Howard Jones' No One Is To Blame by Emile Millar for a romantic scene, some mix of country and pop music, and a great use of Cake's Short Skirt/Long Jacket in a very funny scene.

The film’s cast is wonderfully assembled with small performances from Sarah Hunley as Jenna's regular doctor and Darby Stanchfield as Dr. Pomatter's wife along with an appearance from Shelly's young daughter Sophie Ostroy as a toddler. Lew Temple is funny as the dirty, insulting boss Cal who just orders people around while having a bit of a sensitive side underneath his bossy exterior. Eddie Jemison is very funny as Dawn's new boyfriend who constantly follows her while professing his love to her as Jemison's performance is fun to watch. Adrienne Shelly is also funny as the mousy Dawn who is trying to help Jenna about her problems while giving her the notebook that would play a part of the film.

Cheryl Hines is great as Becky, the other waitress who is trying to deal with her own breasts while keeping a secret as she has some hilarious one-liners throughout the film. Jeremy Sisto is excellent as Earl, Jenna's obnoxious, abusive, and jealous husband who believe a woman is supposed to serve the man while being all nasty and such as Sisto's performance is fun to watch for all the wrong reasons. Andy Griffith is superb as the cantankerous, grouchy Joe, a businessman who always have specific orders and such while providing Jenna with some wise advice as his performance is a joy to watch.

Nathan Fillion of Firefly/Serenity fame is wonderful as the romantic yet simple Dr. Pomatter who changes Jenna's life while trying to find the lost passion he needed in his life in both Jenna and her pies. Finally, there's Keri Russell in an amazing performance that should give her some big-star attention. Russell manages to mix her cynicism and humor in a performance that is engaging and a joy to watch. Russell not only carries the film but she does it very naturally that it's truly her best work to date as she has many great scenes with her supporting cast.

Waitress is a lovely, charming, and funny film from Adrienne Shelly and company featuring great performances from Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion. Fans of romantic comedies and light-hearted films will no doubt enjoy this little gem for all of its humor and sweetness. The film is also guaranteed to make anyone hungry for some pie. In the end, Waitress is a remarkable film from Adrienne Shelly.

© thevoid99 2014


ruth said...

Oh I saw this not too long ago and quite enjoyed it. It's not the typical rom-com and the cast is lovely, I like the chemistry between Keri and Nathan.

I learned later on what happened to Adrienne Shelly, so tragic!

thevoid99 said...

It's a film that I think is much better than most typical rom-coms as it's much smarter and actually gave people real characters. It's still sad that Adrienne Shelly never really got the chance to see the praise her film got.

Brittani Burnham said...

I love this film, it's so sweet. It does make me sad too that Adrienne Shelly never got to see how much people enjoyed this. Great review!

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-Thanks. I think it is an amazing film that needs to be seen more as it showcased what the world would miss with Shelly's passing.